Directed by Eli Roth
A bunch of student activists run into a culture clash of the most horrifying kind when their small plane crashes into the Peruvian jungle in Eli Roth’s much-awaited return to the big screen, The Green Inferno.
Lorenza Izzo stars as Justine, a conscientious young student who is drawn into her campus’ activism group by an attraction to its passionate leader, Alejandro (Levy). Before you know it, she’s hopping on a plane with the group on a trip to the Amazon in order to chain themselves to trees as an awareness-raising stunt, in protest of the destruction of the rainforest and the lands of native tribes.
With their point successfully made, the group are shepherded back on a plane by the authorities, only for it to come down shortly after, killing most of the passengers. The few lucky survivors are quickly abducted by hostile, chattering natives (though not before some of their number take a few arrows to various limbs!) and taken upstream to the tribe’s home. And then the real horror begins.
Roth’s intention here is obviously to pay homage to the likes of Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox, and while the initial tone and content once the survivors are imprisoned amongst the cannibal populace does consistently deliver on the tension, threat, and absolute horror of the situation, Roth simply can’t contain himself when it comes to dipping his toes in unnecessary humour. Make no mistake – the introductory scenes at the cannibal camp, including a wild procession from the water past severed heads and skeletons on spikes, are nightmarishly effective; and the fate of the first character to fill the bellies of the locals is one of the most disturbingly horrific, shocking, grotesque and upsetting (given the character’s likeability) sequences to hit the screens of a theatre in quite some time. At this point, it seems that The Green Inferno is going to be something special – but unfortunately it just can’t keep up after blowing its wad so early.
The remaining characters are less sympathetic, save perhaps for another endearing turn by Aftershock actor Nicolás Martínez, who brings the same friendly everyman vibe that he previously did so well. Mentions earlier in the story of FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) practices feel shoehorned in only to add an unnecessary extra layer of shock value when it comes to the cannibal clan’s plans for Justine, and none of the subsequent character deaths carry the same gruesome weight of the first preparation for dinner. Once the characters are placed in a cage to await their various fates, the film’s tone goes all over the place – culminating in a needlessly humorous sequence displaying just what happens when you expose a huge bunch of cannibals to the effects of marijuana smoke. Hint: It doesn’t end well.
There are enough twists, turns and character conflicts going on to keep you sufficiently invested, and the film does look fantastic, but it just can’t sustain itself after that starting blast of utter horror. It begins the race with a sprint and thus finds itself quickly slowed to a light jog for the remaining stretch. Inexplicably awful, too, is the ending, which leaves the motivations and moral compass of the central character thrown up in the air with ill-judged abandon. It makes very little sense for them to act the way they do given their experience throughout the film – even considering the personal vendetta their choice is obviously formed from – and leaves a very bad taste in the mouth even as it teases at a sequel.
The Green Inferno isn’t a bad film; it does have plenty to offer for genre fans, and a return to some genuine cannibal horror has been long overdue, but a more strict adherence to the grimmer tone and some more horrifying deaths beyond the first would have served it so much better than the choices made here. It will shock and sicken you at points – you can be sure of that – but it’ll also disappoint in equal measure.
3 out of 5