Before the NY premiere screening of The Green Inferno, the new film from torture porn master Eli Roth, Roth himself appeared to introduce the film. He asked us, the audience, who had never seen a horror film with cannibalism before. He told us if we had seen such films such as the cult classic Cannibal Holocaust, to put those perceptions away for the film, and to let it do its own thing. I was one of the few people who raised his hand, and I will admit, I was quite nervous about what I was about to witness on the screen. Monster and ghost movies can be scary, but cannibalism is a different level of horror. Humans eating their fellow humans? That’s some truly terrifying stuff. Roth taps into the fear, and creates a nightmarish movie that is a thrilling journey.
The film begins with our main character Justine (Lorenza Izzo) trying to join a group of student activists at New York-based University. Led by the cocky Alejandro (Ariel Levy), the activists plan to travel to the Peruvian Amazon in order to stop it from being demolished by money hungry corporations. Only things don’t go down quite as they planned, leaving them in the hands of a cannibalistic tribe who don’t have any plans of mercy for the strange white folk that have suddenly graced their presence in their rainforest.
Things begin with a standard setup of the fairly standard characters that will be on the journey, which include Jonah (Aaron Burns), Daniel (Nicolás Martínez), Amy (Kirby Bliss Blanton), Samantha (Magda Apanowicz) and stoner Nick (Daryl Sabara). Most of them are fairly one-dimensional, just seemingly begging to get offed later in the movie. There’s also a quick appearance from Sky Ferreira who plays Justine’s roommate Kaycee, who serves to advise against Justine’s decision to go.
If anything, the film’s beginning drags a bit, as we are just waiting for the inevitable “fun” to begin already. During their journey, trouble arises, leaving the group of students stranded in the middle of the jungle. Unlikely for them they end up right next to a hungry tribe made up of cannibals.
Out of all the horror films I’ve seen, the arrival to the tribes settlement is one of the most tense and horrific experiences I’ve seen. Of course the tension is built on what I know is coming, but oh man, does it feel real. It’s unsettling to see these regular students being oogled by hundreds of the tribes people, soon to meet their fate in the ugliest way imaginable. The direction and music just makes the whole thing that more intense.
Things get grim fast, and once they do, Roth and his co-writer Guillermo Amoedo waste no time turning things ugly. He doesn’t hold back, and it doesn’t help that Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger of KNB EFX make all the gruesome cannibalism look far too real for comfort. I usually have a good handle for blood and gore, but the stuff that goes down in The Green Inferno is pure unsettling and hard to stomach. It makes The Walking Dead look like Sesame Street.
Roth interjects his typical sense of humor here that lightens the mood as much as you can in a film like this. It keeps the whole thing from being overly bleak and morbid, but some people may find that it takes them out of the unsettling nature of the film. When it’s in its groove, The Green Inferno offers some of the highest based tension horror that you can find. While you sit there and watch these humans being tortured, caged, and eaten alive, you can’t help but think, wow, what if this was me. What if I was stuck in this jungle with cannibals. What would I do? That my friends, is the purest form of horror imaginable.
The performances are what you would expect from a horror film. Nothing too spectacular, but nothing particularly cringe-worthy either. Most of the cast consists of Eli Roth’s personal friends from the film Aftershock which he produced and starred in. Lorenza Izzo is fairly perfect as the lead actress, connecting with us enough to root for her till the very end. We got a new scream queen on our hands. There’s also some good stuff from Ariel Levy who will make you hate him. There’s also a scene with Daryl Sabara and a tarantula, that will make all us guys quiver when he see how close the creepy crawler came to his junk.
The film’s middle provides the biggest punch as it’s somewhat bogged down by its slow opening and somewhat underwhelming conclusion. It does leave things wide open for the sequel, which is well on its way. Overall, I got exactly what I wanted out of The Green Inferno, a disturbing, unsettling film about cannibalism, which is ten times more frightening to me than movies of demons, monsters, or ghosts.