Wikipedia Description: “The Green Inferno is a 2013 American cannibal horror film, directed by Eli Roth. The film was inspired by and is an homage to Italian cannibal films of the late 1970s and early ’80s “cannibal boom”, particularly Cannibal Holocaust (1980), which features a film-within-a-film titled The Green Inferno. The film follows a group of activists who are forced to fight for survival when they are captured by a cannibalistic tribe.”
Why I Took it off the List
As I’d just seen Dave Franco’s The Rental (2020) and was about to go on holiday myself, I was somehow in a (rather counter-intuitive) mood to watch another horror-thriller about a group of city folks who get into trouble in rural backwaters (I guess!).
Browsing my list, The Green Inferno popped out and stoked my curiosity: it’s an Eli Roth film from a few years ago that fell somewhat under the radar, and I hadn’t heard much about it apart from a few reviews.
The trailer seemed to promise somewhat more of a pulpy adventure vibe and interesting story to me than Roth’s previous films, and though I’m not usually a fan of gore, I guess I felt brave and decided to give it a try.
I’m just not a big fan of ‘torture porn’ style films like the ones Roth generally puts out and generally prefer horror of the more psychological or supernatural kind. Though I can at least admit that they are generally better put together than most others in this genre, if not exactly subtle – at all!
Saying that, I remember being intrigued by the premise, and above all else, the production process of The Green Inferno when it started playing festivals a few years ago and started getting some reviews.
Like the notorious Italian mockumentary horror Cannibal Halocaust (1980) before it (which I haven’t seen, and don’t really want to!), Roth filmed the majority of the scenes in the actual Amazonian rainforest and used real natives from an isolated tribe to portray the bloodthirsty antagonists in the film.
So, I was a little curious to see how a known provocateur like Roth handled such material and potentially insensitive casting.
The authentic location and the promise of at least a little bit of a satirical bite with its story of activists getting an eye-opening taste of exactly what it is they are trying to save, convinced me to give it another go when I saw it on my list.
Spoilers? Yes, I’m basically gonna pick this one apart because it’s been out for a while already. If you don’t want to be spoiled, maybe avoid reading further!
Review of The Green Inferno
One thing that stands out about The Green Inferno, being an Eli Roth film, is the surprising amount of restraint in the gore department that he deploys given his chop-happy, graphic past in the Hostel franchise and the fact that the film is basically one big homage to the notoriously gruesome Cannibal Holocaust.
Make no mistake, there are a couple of sickeningly gory scenes in The Green Inferno, one in particular that involves a brutal sacrifice that leaves the unfortunate victim in numerous bloody pieces in a matter of a few seconds, but nothing that quite sears the retina like the blow-torch and sickle scenes in the first 2 Hostel flicks.
Roth instead goes more for an adventure survival vibe that feels closer to a slightly more blood-soaked version of something like The Ruins (2008). The shocks he does deliver, one involving a harrowing plane crash and another with a delicate vegan activist discovering something horrific in her meal, go down without much real on-screen gore.
Even the clear villain of the piece gets off without a nasty onscreen demise (although it is certainly implied). Maybe Roth is becoming less of a provocateur as he ages (as his recent detour to family fare with The House with a Clock in its Walls (2018) suggests), but I was genuinely shocked by the lack of bloody surprises.
Part of the lack of shock value comes, I think, from the fact that we are never in any real doubt that Lorenza Izzo’s sympathetic protagonist is in any danger of coming out of her ordeal unscathed.
Unlike in the Hostel films, where any one of the unknown ensembles could get offed at any minute, The Green Inferno more definitely paints Izzo as the heroine. All of the other characters are either massively unlikable or barely defined, so we don’t really care when they end up as sacrifice fodder.
Feels Quite Exploitative at Times
The most undeniably striking and fascinating element of the film is, like in Cannibal Holocaust before it, the use of a real, remote Amazonian tribe to portray the bloodthirsty natives who the student activists fall afoul of.
The tribespeople certainly do a commendable job of appearing completely terrifying, especially the yellow-facepaint-caked and bone-clad executioner, and the strangely serene shaman woman who slides from soothing to brutal on the flip of a dime.
But the use of a real tribe to portray the cannibals also brings up some uncomfortable thoughts of exploitation throughout the whole thing, not really helped by the lack of info about the production process available online and Roth’s flat-out denial issued after such concerns were aired following the film’s release.
Redeemed a Little by Its Satire
One thing I thought redeemed the film quite a lot from my previous concerns was Roth’s use of sly satirical humor in the characterizations of some of the activists and their ‘altruistic’ mission.
I thought Ariel Levy’s character was particularly well written, as he’s the kind of self-important douchebag who anyone who’s ever attended a student environmentalist group will surely be quick to recognize and equally as eager to see his eventual comeuppance.
The final shot was very funny and actually quite genius, and kind of makes a clever point about the way our society tends to lionize those individuals who shout the loudest, whether in hindsight they actually deserve that recognition or not.
Final Score: 5/10
Worth Checking Out?
If you enjoy Eli Roth’s typical output and harrowing horror like the Saw franchise, then you will most likely enjoy The Green Inferno, although, like me, you may well be surprised by the relatively tame gore levels.
Although far from a masterpiece, non-torture porn-aficionados in the mood for a satirical adventure film with a bit more blood than usual may also have a good time.
The Green Inferno (2013)
Directed by Eli Roth
Written by Eli Roth, Guillermo Amoedo
Stay tuned for my next review, in which I’ll take another hard turn away from the horror genre to check out an acclaimed romantic drama.