UPDATED! Ryan Rotten weighs in at the end of this piece.
The release of the new DVD edition of The Punisher movie – now with a cartoon in it! – has prompted director Jonathan Hensleigh to give an interview to Newsarama that every now and again seems a touch combative.
NRAMA: It was an odd choice to release [The Punisher] against Kill Bill, wasn’t it?
JH: I’m not going to respond to that.
Anyway, ace interviewer and part-time Heidi Fleiss Stud Farm employee Daniel Robert Epstein asked Hensleigh about his latest film, which was a surprise to most when it suddenly debuted at the American Film Market. The movie, Welcome to the Jungle, was seen by Fangoria’s Ryan “Rotten” Turek, who said that it reminded him a little of Ruggero Deodato’s infamous Cannibal Holocaust (read about that here). Hensleigh has taken umbrage at this. He calls us internet news folks irresponsible.
The only thing I’ll say to that is that Cannibal Holocaust was inspired by four or five films. Welcome to the Jungle is not a remake of Cannibal Holocaust. It has nothing to do with Cannibal Holocaust. It is the story of four kids who hear a rumor that Michael Rockefeller could still be alive in the heart of New Guinea. They go off and try to find and then interview him.
Welcome to the Jungle is an original story that came from my culling of local legend because Michael Rockefeller has been “sighted” many times. There have been maybe five or six or seven big highly publicized sightings of Michael Rockefeller since he disappeared in 1961. In fact, in the late ‘70s this adventurer named Milt Machlin, walked into the offices of Argosy magazine and said, “I just saw Michael Rockefeller. I don’t want any compensation. I don’t want anything but I’m telling you he’s alive.” Milt Machlin contacted the Rockefeller family and they organized another search for him and Milt Machlin wrote a book about it called In Search of Michael Rockefeller. That’s what Welcome to the Jungle is about. It has nothing to do with Cannibal Holocaust. This is just the irresponsible internet era we live in where somebody can sneak into a screening and then just blog some completely inaccurate description of a film and then the film is forever stamped that way, “Oh it’s a remake of Cannibal Holocaust.” We all now have to deal with these internet bloggers who report inaccurately on films.
Fair enough. Welcome to the Jungle is about four kids who go to New Guinea and film themselves as they blunder about and eventually get eaten by cannibals. The movie is made up of their “last known footage.” On the other hand, Cannibal Holocaust is about four kids who go to South America and film themselves as they blunder about and eventually get eaten by cannibals. The movie is made up of their “last known footage.” And if that’s not different enough, in Welcome to the Jungle they’re in South America looking for a famous missing person while in Cannibal Holocaust they’re in South America to investigate cannibal culture. Could these be any more obviously completely different films?
I look forward to finally seeing Welcome to the Jungle myself, as this Ryan Rotten guy is pretty much unreliable when it comes to horror movies. I’m not even certain he’s seen any.
UPDATE! I got this email from Ryan Rotten just now: How delusional and unconnected is Hensleigh? There was no air of secrecy about my presence at that AFM screening (I was fully registered there) and my opinions didn’t appear on just "any blog." Hensleigh obviously misinterpreted either what I had written or the word-of-mouth that spread when I posted my thoughts. Keep in mind, not once did I mention he directly remade the film. But was Holocaust a heavy influence? Abso-fuckin’-lutely. To deny that is pure ignorance and a blatant bitch slap in the face of horror fans. Calling my write-up an act of “irresponsible” Internet reporting, er, blogging is a negligent knee-jerk reaction on his behalf and I’d love to hear his defense when the film goes wide and other genre fans are given a chance to take this one in. Of course, I wish him the best of luck getting his picture out there – to shoot a film under the radar like this is to be admired and certainly seen. It’s an interesting experiment, but denial is never a good thing.