Welcome to the Jungle (DVD)
Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Sandy Gardiner, Callard Harris, Nick Richey, Veronica Sywak
Directed by Jonathan Hensleigh
Distributed by Dimension Extreme
Please sit tight while I try my best to fend off urges to start spouting Guns and Roses puns by the barrel-full. *ties bandanna around head and slips on Union Jack spandex shorts* Almost there! Almost out of my system ... There! Phew! That was a close one. OK then, let's begin. Most would write off Welcome to the Jungle as sort of a Diet Cannibal Holocaust, and honestly you wouldn't be that far off. However, once you strip away the obvious comparisons, what you will be left with is a ghoulish slice of cinéma-vérité that should be chewed slowly as it is the good stuff! Before we get into what works and what doesn't, let's delve into the storyline a bit. Man, it's a doozy!
If you thought the story of three college kids with potty mouths who headed into the woods to film a documentary about a local witch was hard to swallow, brother, you haven't seen anything yet! Welcome to the Jungle follows the exploits of four friends who travel to the Asmat region of southwestern New Guinea in order to track down and film long missing rich kid Michael Rockefeller. Why? To sell their tape to the tabloids of course! YAY! Before I go any further, it should be noted that the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller (read Wikipedia entry here) is very much a true and well documented tale. After his ship capsized, he was presumed dead on November 17, 1961, believed to be the victim of anything from crocodiles to cannibals. In fact his tale is so bizarre that it makes perfect fodder for a horror film.
Once you come to terms with the stupidity of our protagonists who think they can accomplish something that one of the richest men in the history of the United States could not, it's off to the badlands. I'm sure you can guess how things pan out so there is no real need for me to flesh out the story any further.
Welcome to the Jungle offers some solid thrills and chills. Its only real downfall is the actors themselves. Cinéma-vérité is tricky and completely dependent on the performers. Our cast does a stellar job for the most part, but all it takes are a few false notes to ruin the this-really-happened illusion, and WHAM you're now out of the film. We have several moments like that here. If only there had been time for a few more takes to totally own the events. Still, I have to say Hensleigh nailed it for the most part and delivered a cannibal film that does exactly what it should do -- shock, revolt, and disgust. The best part? We didn't have to sit through any pointless animal killings to get the goodies!
In terms of supplemental material there's a scant bit to chew on here. Other than the director's commentary (which, by the way, is quite good), all we get are a single deleted scene (with optional commentary), a trailer, and your cookie-cutter 15-minute making-of featurette. Well, at least these bones weren't stripped completely bare, right?
Welcome to the Jungle doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it does do its part competently to keep it turning. If you're in the mood for some bloody Blair Witch style mayhem, this should certainly be on your menu. Score another decent film for Dimension's Extreme label.
3 1/2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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