PLOT: When a motley band of college activists travels to the Peruvian Amazon in order to help save a native tribe's plot of land, a near fatal plane crash plunges them all deep into a cannibalistic heart of darkness!
REVIEW: At long last, after a 6 year respite away from the director's chair, the ghastly mascot, the talisman of terror, the unabashed champion of all things horror - Mr. Eli Roth - finally makes his much anticipated return to feature filmmaking with the guttural and verdantly primeval gut-punch THE GREEN INFERNO. Now, I must admit, given the two-year release delay and subpar critical mass surrounding the film, my expectations for the flick were kept in modest check. Well, never mind the soft bigotry of low expectations, THE GREEN INFERNO - with its flesh-charred redolence of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST - is the best movie Roth has shepherded in a good decade. Granted, only a small sample size since '05s HOSTEL, and by no means perfect, but through its convincing performances, tightly plotted script that actuates an organically horrifying scenario - THE GREEN INFERNO offers nothing less than a sick, smoldering cannibalistic scourge!
The picture kicks off with a gorgeous flyover shot of the lush Peruvian jungle, where we instantly get a sense of how densely vegetated yet highly isolated our tale of terror will be set. We then cut to a college campus to meet our lovely leading lass Justine (Roth's real life wife Lorenza Izzo), a wide-eyed freshman who, with her jaded roommate Kara (Sky Ferreira), at once marvels and ridicules the group of activists known as The Janitors. With a half-fixed eye on their hunky but far too serious Latin leader Alejandro (Ariel Levy), Justine agrees to join one of the Janitor's group meetings one night. But when she insults the cause and gets reprimanded for it, she feels so bad she decides to not only show support, but tag along when the crew hops a small plane and flies to the Peruvian jungle. The mission? To help save an indigenous tribe from corporate land takeover. How honorable, right? Yeah, well the honor turns to abject horror once the mission is completed and a celebratory plane-ride afterward plummets hard into the Amazonian thicket.
You see, not only is the surviving gaggle stranded without cell service and absolutely no contact with the outside civilization, the battered and bloodied few are quickly absconded by a native horde of savages. We're talking about a poisonous blow-darting, bone-adorned, ruddy-skinned tribe of indigenous people who know only one thing...any unwanted interlopers on their hallowed ground are bound to end up on the lunch menu. Tough break for Justine and company, who are soon crammed in a makeshift prison-cage and forced to watch one of their own get gorily eviscerated, disemboweled, chopped apart, and thrown in a large caldron to stew. And that's just the beginning. The ever-dwindling band of survivors, led by the increasingly ulterior motivated Alejandro, are subjected to one vile stint of ritualistic tribalism after another. We're talking clitoral castration, vicious flesh-mastication, genital mutilation, attempted virginal sacrifice, the works. Ultimately, it's up to Justine to forge some kind of kinship with one of the native children as a means of escape. Think she can make it out alive and in one piece? If so, can she ever recoup the severe psychic toll?
I'll leave it to you see how it all unfolds, but suffice it to say, THE GREEN INFERNO packs an unflinching wallop of discomfort that's bound to throttle your senses and leave you utterly marauded. When the visceral primalism strikes, it strikes hard, yet does so in a way that feels totally natural and germane to the story told. If the opening half of the flick weren't so compelling on its own - an urgently topical one mind you - perhaps the piercing payoff wouldn't work as well. But since the horror arises organically in the flow of the story, it feels much more authentic and therefore believable. Props must be given to Roth and co-writer Guillermo Amoedo for carefully plotting unforeseen story twists and turns that result in far more than just a grisly tale of nasty nativism. In fact, beyond the flesh-chomping, eyeball eating and torturous tongue-excising, there's a refreshing array of death causes here to keep even the most jaded of horror heads agog. Yet, on the flip side, there's isn't a desensitizing overload of gore that Roth might be guilty of in the past. There's just the right amount of coursing carnage to complement that story Roth is trying to tell.
But for all the gory good and seasoned storytelling the film boasts, I found that, for a movie so clearly inspired by CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, the flick lacks the deadly denouement of its 80s Italian counterpart. Perhaps that's by design as to not crib too heavily from the vicious verisimilitude Roggero Deadoto laid down in 1980, but whereas CH concluded with a hypnotically soul-shaking finale, THE GREEN INFERNO adheres more to an adventure film playbook where a daring escape takes precedent. Which is fine, but being such a fan of how CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST ends, the way in which THE GREEN INFERNO comparatively wraps up, for me, was a bit of an uneventful anticlimax. A bit shocking for a Roth flick. Thankfully Lorenza Izzo lent much pathos in her dogged performance as a frighteningly objectified heroine. Really, without her to root for, all you could really do is chock up the crew's ill-fated encounter as nothing more than tough luck. I mean, one of the other things I admired about the flick is how nonjudgmental and matter of fact the savages are portrayed as. This is ritual, a way of life, and only in stark contrast to the pampered extrinsic American lives is the result so horrific.
Parsed in simpler terms, THE GREEN INFERNO easily rivals CABIN FEVER and the two HOSTEL flicks as Eli Roth's most accomplished horror flick to date. It's certainly his most flesh-out (pun?) screenplay, where the innate horror of the story unfolds in a way that feels real and even quite plausible. Throw in a bit of social commentary, a sumptuous setting, some dark humor, an unexpected twist or two, well drawn characters and a frenzied bout primal viscera...and no doubt it...THE GREEN INFERNO lands as a fecund plot of horror ferocity worthy of tilling!