Hello ladies and gentlemen, Muldoon here with some thoughts on a pretty gnarly little cannibal film. Now in the world of cinema (or art for that matter) everyone’s got an opinion, and while I respect the tar out of Nordling, I couldn’t disagree more with his review. I feel like we both watched a completely different film. So here I am with my thoughts, a Devil’s Advocate (which I guess would be Roth in this case?). So let’s hop on in, eh?
As a fan of Roth’s twisted work since HOSTEL, I’ve actively avoided info about the film for months. (Didn’t care much for CABIN FEVER… I know, I know), but the thing is, when his name’s attached to a film, you know your in for some strong visuals, visceral images, and absolute frat boy humor. With GREEN INFERNO you also get the added bonus of a damn fine cast. With half the cast of AFTERSHOCK, Roth’s last dip into horror (as producer/actor), there’s an added layer of familiarity to the group and the key characters who get dropped into a hellish situation are spot on.
With gorefests in general, if I don’t care about the characters on screen, then it’s like being forced to watch a demented sicko masturbate with dyed Kayro corn syrup for 90 minutes, not my idea of fun. That’s just not the case with this flick. Here I found myself feeling every dart to the neck, every insult casually thrown around, and every time someone gets sliced, diced, and served up with rice by a horde of painted cannibal natives. That’s one thing Roth does better than anything else, he presents characters that on the surface are yuppy spoiled assholes (Seriously, CABIN FEVER… HOSTEL…) and has you on their side by the time the end credits hit. This film’s no different and I can’t help but give credit to his casting choices.
So let’s start off with the cast. The film’s lead, Lorenza Izzo, absolutely fits perfectly as the daughter of a UN employee, a rich suburban college kid who has to fight to survive for the bulk of the flick. She’s solid. At first glance it’s easy to write her off as “just another hot chick” with eyes you could get lost in for days, but she really turns it up to 11 in this thing. When she screams, you care. While I had fun with her character in AFTERSHOCK, I honestly wasn’t attached enough to care if her character met some grim demise or not. In GREEN INFERNO, I found myself in her shoes, running with her the whole time (away from freaky flesh eaters of course). While we’re on AFTERSHOCK folks, Ariel Levy and Nicolas Martinez are also along for the ride. With Ariel, this time rather than swooning over his guitar skills, you’ll absolutely just want to beat the living shit out of him. He knows his character and fully takes it to that level of asshole that I can only reserve for people who spoil movies or don’t tip waiters. He’s a sneaky prick in the flick, but does it so well it’s hard to believe he’s acting. Martinez once again is the lovable funnyman with a tad too much confidence for his own good.
Then out of left field we’ve got two Roth newcomers, Daryl Sabara and Aaron Burns. Sabara you know from the SPY KIDS franchise. His character isn’t too deep as he’s a supporting role in the film and plays the part of a stoner dbag with a good heart rather well. And ladies, if you’re in for some Spy Kids full frontal… there’s a tarantula gag that’s just perfect for you. Seriously, more folks need to cast this kid. This isn’t WORLD’S GREATEST DAD Sabara here (totally tonally different thing), but he’s believable and fun on screen. And last up is Aaron Burns, the son of Troublemaker producer Elizabeth Avellan as “Jonah.” I have a feeling in a few years time folks will get to know him just as “Aaron Burns” and not need that extra bit of info, but for now that’s how you might know him. He directed a small indie flick that played SXSW a few years back (BLACKTINO) and seemed a perfect fit for this role.
I’ve heard across the board, if you want an easy working relationship with an actor, cast a director. Look at Tarantino (Roth in BASTERDS) or Spielberg (Truffaut or Attenborough). Could Burns have carried the whole film? Nah, but as a supporting character, the lovable “fat guy who loves the girl that’s out of his league” he’s spot on. There’s a sincerity in his eyes that I think will transport you back to your awkward days in high school, a relatability that’s nothing short of endearing.
"So great, it’s got a good cast. How about the kills?” Here’s where I was actually surprised with the film. It’s got restraint. Yes, there’s blood, guts, flaps of skin dangling, and blood spurting feet into the air, but I never really felt like it was too much. The thing’s paced in such a way where it’s not “gore, gore, gore, and more gore with a side of tits,” it’s actually way more tame than what I was expecting from Roth, a dude who’s got his own gorefactory on the Vegas strip… I was pleasantly surprised, since I’m not particularly fond of torture porn. There’s absolutely moments of terror and yes, you see some gnarly stuff, but I feel it was all in good taste (cannibal joke?) considering the director who’s been hit with bloodlust since childhood.
Can you take the whole film serious, as a genuinely terrifying film? No. This is not THE EXORCIST. This is a dip into fantasy. If you’re looking for incredibly picturesque images of a land you’ve not seen much of, this film’s got it. If you’re looking for some freakiness that’s not all relying on jump scares, this is it. If you’re just looking to have fun watching a scary film, this is it. Of course, I had completely forgotten Roth’s upbringing at Troma and there are two spots in the film that had me questioning “Did Trent Haaga and Uncle Lloyd write this?” These specific moments are why I can’t take the film *too seriously, since it’s like “Did we really need that? Nope, but it did make you laugh.”
I’d argue this film is HOSTEL (well not exactly beat for beat), but Roth seems interested in exploring something about America, specifically our idea that we seem impenetrable, or that the rules don’t apply to us. I mean the film’s about a group of college kids who go into the wilderness of a foreign jungle to stop loggers by filming a protest and posting it on the internet. The audacity and naivety of the upper middle class young adult seems to be something Roth likes reflecting time and time again. This film is no different and in a sick way, you kind of want the message of “Hey, movie going kids in the audience, if this person sounds and acts like you… it’s not a good thing and you should learn from their mistakes how to not be such a twat.”
At the end of the day is this film a masterpiece? No. Would I recommend it to my friends to see at a theater, plop down their hard earned bucks for an hour and a half of hellish green? Yes. This movie’s so absurd at times and never hesitates to up the ante, it’s unadulterated fun that harkens back to 80’s slashers and leaves you smiling during the sickest of times. If the film sounds like something you’d remotely be interested in seeing, you’re going to have a good time. If you’re expecting a film that’ll give you nightmares and thinking twice the next time your S.O. nibbles your ear, this isn’t it.
It's exactly what I'd want out of an Eli Roth cannibal flick. Great cast. Great locations. Stupid frat boy humor. Gnarly kills. Just be sure to see it on an empty stomach. "Boobs, blood, and barbeque (of the human variety)." Now, back to more Fantastic Fest films!
- Mike McCutchen