THE GREEN INFERNO
The Italian cannibal film of the 1970s and early 80s has a reputation as being the genre that is possibly the most extreme ever placed on film. Under the ostensible guise of the depiction of tribal practices, filmmakers served up a catalogue of tortures, bloodshed, mutilations, intestine and flesh devourings, even the on-camera slaughter of animals. The genre began with Umberto Lenzis Deep River Savages/Man from Deep River (1972), which can still make a claim to ethnographic quasi-realism, and hit its stride a few years later with works like Last Cannibal World/Jungle Holocaust (1977), Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977), Slave of the Cannibal God/Prisoner of the Cannibal God (1978), Cannibal Apocalypse/Cannibals in the Streets (1980), Eaten Alive (1980) and Zombie Holocaust/Dr Butcher M.D. (1980) where the emphasis was on extreme gore. The two most notorious films to emerge from this fad were Cannibal Holocaust (1979) and Cannibal Ferox (1981), which were so extreme they were banned in multiple countries.
Eli Roth apparently considers Cannibal Holocaust to be his favourite film and The Green Inferno has been made as homage to it and the era of the Italian cannibal film. Indeed, the title The Green Inferno was one of the alternate titles used by Cannibal Holocaust II (1988). Moreover, the end credits come with a dedication For Ruggero to Ruggero Deodato who directed Cannibal Holocaust (and also made a cameo in Hostel Part II where he was seen eating a victims flesh). Not satisfied with that, Roth also includes a list of the original Italian cannibal films on the end credits as a primer for his audience. Even Lorenza Izzos final scene where she denies that the tribe were cannibals is reminiscent of the end of Cannibal Ferox where Lorraine Del Salle returns to deliver her dissertation that cannibal tribes do not exist.
This is the cannibal film updated by thirty years to take places amid issues like Amazonian rainforest deforestation and where people are able to map their journey by GPS and stay in contact by satellite phone the end credits even include the Twitter handles of most of the principal cast. Once he gets into the cannibal scenes, Roth lets loose on all the scenes of people being torn apart, eyes gouged out and tribespeople chewing on body parts. The downside of this is that we also have is a cannibal film with mildly known actors, a halfway decent budget and top Hollywood makeup effect house KNB EFX providing the severed body parts. It seems like the raw savagery of the 1970s/80s originals has been replaced by a slick glossiness. Crucially, while the film has a high gore factor, there is nothing that rocks the boat about the gore scenes Roth was even able to get his cut of the film passed uncut by the MPAA whereas many of the original films were banned in multiple countries. There is nothing here that ever approaches the extremes of the originals where we saw women strung up with hooks through their nipples, dicks being cut off and eaten or animals gutted on camera. Also the characters have been imbued with a flip and knowing modern sense of humour and bickering among themselves that starts to intrude into the brutality.
Roth has also run the cannibal genre over with a modern political subtext. The characters in the original Italian cannibal films were all explorers or adventurers of some type and never more complicated than that. By contrast, The Green Inferno has a prologue that takes up nearly the first half of the film where Roth follows a group of American university students who venture into the jungle on a mission to preserve the tribe from loggers. The entirety of this section seems set up essentially to scathingly tear apart white middle-class liberal guilt and the naive ideals of student idealism the post and trailer go out with the byline No good deed goes unpunished. Much of the first half is spent jeering about how out of their depth the kids are beyond the realm of cellphone coverage and civilised sanitation. Increasingly the film also becomes one not merely about puncturing their naivety but hammering a stake completely through their liberal ideals Lorenzo Izzo gets to the site and discovers that she has been set up because her father is a lawyer with the UN, while her shock at having a gun held at her head is callously dismissed Thats the way the world is. To further complicate matters, she finds that their entire mission was created as a blind so that a rival company could get the contract for the logging operation. The film comes with the savage irony Lorenza Izzos disgust at female circumcision in the early scenes is later almost visited on her; the savage tribe they set out to save from massacre are the same ones that also end up eating most of the group. And to finally skewer any of their idealistic naivete, once we get to the scenes with the cannibal tribe, Ariel Levy as the initially charismatic leader of the protest group is played as a complete asshole who backstabs and sacrifices others to save himself.
The Green Inferno was also where Eli Roth met and subsequently married Lorenza Izzo who has become the star of all of his subsequent films. Izzo is a Chilean-born actress but speaks flawless English such that you would not know she is an average white girl from a well-to-do American home unless you actually read up on her background. Moreover, this was where Roth established a foothold in the Chilean film industry and began to partner with Nicolas Lopez who co-produces The Green Inferno and subsequently co-wrote/co-produced the Chilean-shot Knock Knock, which also reuses several of the actors here. Furthermore, Lopez persuaded Roth to co-write and play lead actor in his own directorial outing Aftershock (2012).
Eli Roth has also served as producer on 2001 Maniacs (2005), The Last Exorcism (2010), The Last Exorcism Part II (2013), The Sacrament (2013), Clown (2014), The Stranger (2014) and The Man with the Iron Fists 2 (2015) and the tv series Hemlock Grove (2013-5). He wrote/produced Aftershock (2012), The Man with the Iron Fists (2012) and the remake of Cabin Fever (2016). He has also appeared as an actor in Dont Look Up (2009), Quentin Tarantinos Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Piranha (2010).