Eli Roth is always going to be a divisive filmmaker. Not only because of the violent content of his films, but because Roth always uses his stories as opportunities for some strong social satire. This attitude has grown with every subsequent film Roth has done, and the quality of the films have increased as well. Hostel: Part II is one of the best horror films of its decade, and its commentary about class and power is equally fantastic and vicious. Well, Roth has decided to up the ante once again with The Green Inferno, and even though it may not be my preferred film in his repertoire, I’d be hard-pressed to argue against it being his best film to date.
There’s so much in The Green Inferno that demonstrates Roth’s prowess as a filmmaker. The gorgeous locations and effective set work ooze authenticity, making the jungle a fantastic combination of threatening and beautiful. Taking a page from Ruggero Deodato’s book and using a real native tribe for the film also lends the film a believable veneer. Roth’s satire is at its sharpest yet, taking on modern day activist culture and its tendency to be incredibly naive and gullible. I’m sure there will those who find this offensive, but that just proves their misguided anger and ignorance. The Green Inferno is tailor-made to incite the overly sensitive, and I love that. It even feels like Roth has bettered some of his pacing issues from previous movies, crafting a script that spends a lot of time getting to know its cast of characters before dropping them into the middle of a cannibal tribe. While the group certainly has its stereotypes, they still feel like genuine people.
Probably the most surprising and enjoyable element of The Green Inferno is how funny it is. Roth has always maintained a twisted sense of humor in his projects, and The Green Inferno manages to be his most laugh-inducing film yet. While some of these laughs emanate from some well-timed gore gags, a lot of the humor is just a well-timed line or a goofy observation in the middle of a horrific situation. This film has probably one of the funniest masturbation scenes in recent memory.
Of course, it’s impossible to avoid going in-depth about the gore of the film. I’m sure a good swath of people will find the film’s viscera disturbing, but having just rewatched Cannibal Holocaust in preparation for this film, I found the special effects to be a welcome treat. Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger bring their dependable talents to the bloodbath, and gorehounds will find plenty to enjoy. The most disturbing parts of the film are actually the ones where the threat of violence is impending, especially the scenes that involve female genital mutilation.
Using that as the most awkward of segues, lead actress Lorenza Izzo does an astounding job in this film, and I hope she gets recognized for that. In fact, the female cast trump their male counterparts in almost every way, with the exception of the highly enjoyable Daryl Sabara. Even though most of these characters are aggressively unaware of the insane situation they’ve put themselves in (traveling into the jungle to protest an oil company), it never makes them unlikable (with one exception, but that character ends up as the villain of the film in a way).
The Green Inferno is Cannibal Holocaust (there’s a delightful “History of Cannibal Films” list in the credits and the movie ends with “Per Ruggero” filling the screen) by way of the South Park episode “Rainforest Shmainforest” and that makes me very happy. It’s an extremely tight movie that moves along briskly, delivers on all the cannibal goodness you crave, and happens to be disarmingly funny more often than it has any right to be. I know there’s a lot of people out there who just don’t dig Eli Roth, but The Green Inferno proves that he’s continuing to grow as a filmmaker and in all the right ways. With the horror genre poised to take a new turn in the coming years, we need people like Roth leading the way.