Editor’s Notes: The Green Inferno is currently out in limited release.
I’ll go ahead and get one thing out of the way here: The Green Inferno is as much of a strangely irreverent comedy as it is the gore-fest we all expected it to be, with a dash of satire thrown in for good measure. So, what would possibly compel Hollywood, or more specifically director Eli Roth, to use this approach when making a film about humans being ritualistically tortured and eaten? Well, like the resulting film’s cannibalistic tribe, let’s dig in.
The Green Inferno is as much of a strangely irreverent comedy as it is the gore-fest we all expected it to be, with a dash of satire thrown in for good measure.
In The Green Inferno, our main characters are a makeshift band of college students. They’re environmental activists, or so some members would believe, as quite a few of them show far more concern with their organization itself than the rainforests they claim to be saving. The very basis of what they’re doing is “slacktivism,” purporting to be fighting for a cause, while only really having the advancement of themselves in mind. But, not all of the students are aware of this, and believe they’re doing something beneficial. Nevertheless, both parties find themselves in a plane headed for the jungles of Peru. Before and after they land, each character is established as a “college kid” archetype, from the good-natured overweight guy, to the stoner, to the female lead freshman, who’s new on campus and a blatant final girl. Soon, they’re all on yet another plane, but this one crashes, leaving everybody stranded in the middle of the Peruvian jungle, where they’re found by a tribe of cannibals. One by one, each is killed and eaten, as those who await the same fate search for ways to escape.
Their performances, while fittingly so, are not good, and don’t assist in making the film anything more than what it is, a fun B-movie.
Their performances, while fittingly so, are not good, and don’t assist in making the film anything more than what it is, a fun B-movie. But, that’s what Eli Roth wants it to be, a throwback to old B-movie horror, particularly of the cannibal variety, and most notably Cannibal Holocaust. Problem is, that’s not what The Green Inferno does best. In fact, it doesn’t work as a throwback, because the only resemblance it has to Cannibal Holocaust is its setting. No, The Green Inferno plays out more like a semi-satirical comedic experiment holding a blatant middle-finger toward slacktivism. See, as mentioned earlier, the leads are divided into two groups, those who are there for the wrong reasons and, conversely, the right reasons. The slacktivists and the activists. When the activists are killed by the tribe, it’s portrayed as tragic. But the students are all wearing construction uniforms as part of their planned activism, and thus the activists don’t necessarily blame the tribe itself. They’re specifically horrified of the misunderstanding, aware that the tribe believes they’re all construction workers, and only plan to eat them simply because it’s their way of life.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, when the slacktivists are killed, it’s played for comedy. They despise the tribe, and want to see them all steamrolled with the rest of the village. So, in return, their deaths are essentially treated like comeuppance gags. These scenes are devoid of good taste to match the characters they feature, who themselves are practically devoid of good morals. And, watching the slacktivists figure out ways to survive is where much of the comedy comes into play, from inopportune masturbation to utilizing a stash of marijuana. Sure, this approach to filmmaking is an immature way to criticize a group of people, but it’s brimming with passion, even if the result has pretty awful cinematography and writing.
It’s tough reviewing these kinds of films. Quality is of course, everywhere else, held above all other traits in terms of importance. You either are or aren’t a fan of this genre, and if you are, then you’ll probably have a pretty good time with The Green Inferno.
You either are or aren’t a fan of this genre, and if you are, then you’ll probably have a pretty good time with The Green Inferno.