Niche horror filmmaking has become somewhat of a dying breed. There are only a few directors who continue to deliver it, probably due to the fact that the majority of these features rarely get theatrical distribution. Netflix and VOD have become the place where these films live, mostly leaving us with one PG-13 studio teen flick after another. Eli Roth was one of those few filmmakers with releases such as Cabin Fever and Hostel, but has ultimately spent most of his time in the producer's chair. Despite the long delay from festival screens to the cinema, The Green Inferno is his return to the role of director, which is where he belongs. Watch as Roth proves that he's still a master of bloodshed, and an enemy of the squeamish.
Justine (Lorenza Izzo) is a college freshman who wants to promote change in the world, specifically to fight for the rights of tribal women. She travels with a group of student activists to the Amazon to save the rain forest from being destroyed in the name of construction. They ultimately find themselves abducted by a nearby tribe with a hunger for human flesh. The young activists must work together if they hope to escape what is sure to be certain death.
It's clear that Mr. Roth has a fear of traveling to foreign countries, as this is the third film that he has created that feeds off of this concept. Hostel and Hostel: Part II's bloodshed comes entirely from a group of Americans traveling abroad, and The Green Inferno plays off of the very same idea. However, it initially tries to paint more sympathetic characters than what we're used to seeing from most horror flicks. The majority of the group genuinely cares for the well-being of the rain forest in the Amazon, as well as the tribe that lives within it. Unsurprisingly, the film's protagonist is the easiest to connect with, but Amy (Kirby Bliss Blanton) certainly becomes one that the audience wants to see survive this whole ordeal. Her shock to the situations unfolding feel realistic, making her one of the more realistic characters here. The rest of them are expendable, but deaths don't begin to occur for quite some time into the feature's duration. Until they actually encounter the tribe, a sense of doom hangs over the overall tone, causing a constant sense of unease.
Naturally, the character dynamics change once they're captured. Their true colors begin to show when they discover a possible fate that looks a whole lot worse than death. The differences in personalities allows for more than just a Cannibal Holocaust rip-off, but it isn't necessarily the film's major attraction. The brutality of it all is what will draw horror crowds to their nearest cinema, and Roth proves that he's still a master of gore. This is some of the most intensely grotesque content to hit theaters with an R rating in years. He doesn't spare us any details, as the tribe's violent ritualistic endeavors continue to push the boundaries further and further. Needless to say, this isn't for the faint of heart. In fact, it's likely that only horror veterans will be able to handle some of the extreme degrees of carnage being put on display. You know it's brutal when the majority of the critics at a screening are looking down at the ground and groaning for much of the running time. It becomes more of an endurance test than it is just another cinematic experience.
Horror films can often be seen as being social commentary based on what modern tragedies have occurred. The Green Inferno is more of a follow-up to Cannibal Holocaust, but it still speaks volumes about culture and how the United States reacts to countries that differ from ours. Regardless of how repulsive we find some rituals to be, we can't force our values on others. This subtext is incredibly prevalent, but screenwriters Eli Roth and Guillermo Amoedo don't quite manage to make it work. The introduction to it all is effective, but by the story's conclusion, it feels incredibly manipulative. The Green Inferno's final minutes will instantly pull audiences out of it all. Roth and Amoedo want to be sensitive to tribes around the world, yet mostly portray them as animalistic rather than human. This is a major conflict that sticks out like a sore thumb, and truly makes for a confused message that detracts from the film's other goal of being as sickening and disgusting as possible.
One thing that remains pure is Roth's visual design. I believe that I'm speaking for my fellow horror fans when I say that Roth is a much better director than he is a producer. The Green Inferno looks absolutely great. Since it was filmed on location, the greens found in the environment pop. The beautiful rain forests happens to be a perfect place for this bloodshed. As mentioned previously, it takes quite some time to get to the gory bits, but once they start, it's relentless. The first major kill of the feature is one of the most realistically brutal sequences that I've seen in quite some time. Roth never shies away from it, but shows every little detail. Manuel Riveiro's score is massively impactful in delivering the terror, as it pushes us further into the horrifying chaos of it all.
While it doesn't break any new ground, Eli Roth's The Green Inferno is a decent cannibal film. It's disgusting, terrifying, and consistently entertaining. I can guarantee that audiences will never find themselves bored, even when having to deal with Sky Ferreira's noticeably terrible performance. The ending is undeniably problematic and the social commentary isn't very effective, but otherwise, this is an endurance test that horror fans will enjoy seeing on the big screen. Roth's return to the director's chair isn't quite as impressive as one would hope, but it's still better than most of the underwhelming PG-13 horror flicks coming from the Hollywood studios. Visually, he entirely succeeds with both the gross-out gags, as well as the breath-taking environments. The Green Inferno is a satisfying feast for gore hounds, but the squeamish should avoid this one at all costs. Recommended for those who can stomach it.