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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

THE GREEN INFERNO Review: Scary Movies 7 Series

Courtesy of Open Road Films
2013, 103 minutes
Rated for aberrant violence and torture, grisly disturbing images, brief graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use

Review by Joshua Handler

This screening was shown as part of Scary Movies 7 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center on November 2, 2013.  The Green Inferno will be released theatrically next year by Open Road Films.

The Green Inferno, Eli Roth's homage to cannibal horror films of the '70s and '80s, is one of the few horror films I've seen in recent memory where everyone seemed to have a blast making it.  Roth introduced the film with great affection and excitement, which already started the evening on a good note and prepared me for the spectacle I was about to experience.  Roth said that this film was a passion project and having seen it, I can easily believe it.  

The film starts with helicopter shots of the Amazon jungle and then introduces us to Justine (Lorenza Izzo), a Columbia University student who joins an activist group soon after to go down to the Amazon to protest deforestation and the destruction of native tribes' homelands.  Soon after, all hell breaks loose.

While The Green Inferno has an engaging story, the main points of interest here are the scenes of spectacular gore and the clever social commentary.  The gore scenes here are frequently disturbing, but at the same time, hilarious, as Roth plays much of it for comedic effect.  Some killings come out of nowhere, but some scenes, particularly one of dismemberment, seem to last forever.  The dismemberment scene is initially extremely disturbing before becoming so ridiculous that it's funny.  

The Green Inferno serves as a commentary on our treatment of animals, namely our habit of eating them for food.  For the cannibals in the film, the humans are simply food, as cows, turkeys, chickens, etc. are for most humans.  In fact, to emphasize his point, Roth cuts to a shot of cows relaxing in the grass after a person is killed for food.  In one sequence, a human's arms, legs, and head are hacked off before his torso is put in the oven like a Thanksgiving turkey.  

In addition to being a commentary on animal abuse, the films serves as Roth's commentary on what he calls "slacktivism" - activism for people who "just want the shortcut."  These are people, according to Roth, who think that retweeting something is activism.  While this commentary is certainly quite funny, it takes a back seat to the extreme gore.

Another interesting aspect about The Green Inferno is that it doesn't make the cannibals seem evil.  The cannibal tribe is simply portrayed as living their way of life and punishing the invaders.  The college students aren't always made out to be the sympathetic ones.

Roth and actress Lorenza Izzo were on hand at the Film Society of Lincoln Center for a post-screening Q&A during which they told some wonderfully bizarre stories.  One of the best was how this film came to be.  It all started on Quentin Tarantino's "publishing day", the day where he invites 20 or so of his closest friends over for a party where everyone gets the first copy of his new script.  At this party, Diablo Cody, screenwriter of Juno, asked Roth when he was going to direct again.  Roth told her the idea that he had for this film and she insisted that he write it (Cody is a huge fan of Roth's - she saw Hostel 2 for her birthday).  

Roth went scouting for locations down in South America and through a long chain of events, he found a group of people who were almost completely isolated.  The elder people had never seen TV or ice cubes before.  The only things they knew about the outside world were from the kids who would be boated into town for school.  The native group was shown the notorious film Cannibal Holocaust as their first film and immediately after seeing it (and taking it as a comedy), they agreed to act in Roth's film.  During this shoot, the crew endured all kinds of adverse conditions, but it seemed that the consensus was that the bugs were the worst.  According to Roth, the bugs in Starship Troopers had nothing on the ones that he and his crew had on set.

Overall, The Green Inferno is a crazy film that should entertain Roth's fans and fans of hardcore gore.  I wish it had more of a satisfying ending, but that is a small complaint in a film full of fun, laughs, and gore.  


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