Like most forms of entertainment horror movies are cyclical when it comes to what is popular with audiences. While there are some constants (zombies will always be a thing) for the most part what’s big will change all the time. It’s easy to forget with the endless supernatural found footage movies that it wasn’t too long ago that horror was run by the ‘Splat Pack.’ Beyond the silly name it was a group of then up-and-coming directors who shifted mainstream horror away from the MTV-esque gloss of the 90’s into a bloodier, more violent genre. At the forefront of this movement was director Eli Roth. With a minuscule budget (1.5 million to be exact) he burst onto the scene with the bloody cult classic Cabin Fever. He quickly rose to stardom with the Hostel series before taking a break from directing to act (Inglorious Basterds) and produce (The Last Exorcism, Man with the Iron Fists). After 8 years and a less than ideal production Roth finally returns to the big screen with The Green Inferno. After two years on the shelf was it worth it?
The Green Inferno follows a group of college activists. Despite warnings these idealistic 20-somethings from New York head to the Amazon to save a native tribe. When their plane crushes deep in the jungle they are taken by the tribe they were trying to save.
A throwback to the cannibal exploitation movies of the 70’s this hits all the points you want it to. First and foremost, the gore. While not as gory as I expected there is still way more than most mainstream horror. As crazy as it sounds it’s actually pretty refreshing. Instead of hiding the kills in the shadows or obscuring it with shaky camera it’s laid out front and center. This is benefited by some great practical effects. While there is occasionally some iffy CGI for the most part we get some great gore and make up from Greg Nicotero. I think it looks way better than you’d expect with a $6 million budget.
The other highlight was the tribe itself. Using a real Peruvian tribe adds a certain authenticity that can’t be replicated. While not actual actors they looked perfect and had an odd charisma to them. I can’t quite say the same for the actual cast. Aside from Lorenza Izzo as Justine and Aaron Burns as Jonah none of the activists had much of a personality. This isn’t helped by a script that can plod at times. The movie doesn’t really start going until the plane crash. That’s when things really pick up.
Surprisingly the big issue people seem to have with the movie isn’t the violence. If the comments section of think pieces is any indication people seem to take issue with it’s message against activism. In interviews Roth has mentioned how he hates social justice warriors and the culture of slacktavism. While a valid point I honestly didn’t see much of this message in the movie. Sure the victims are activists I get more of Roth’s go to message of “Stay in your lane and don’t go where you don’t belong” more than anything else.
So after all this time was the wait worth it? I think so. No doubt the movie has it’s flaws and is far from perfect. That isn’t what Eli Roth was going for though. More than anything else he was aiming to make a throwback to the grimy, dirty exploitation films of the past. The kind of movie that makes you gasp and laugh at what you’re watching. With this in mind The Green Inferno succeeds. It’s violent, gory, and will certainly have you gasping. More importantly it’s a breathe of fresh air from the stale horror movies this past year. I can only hope it leads to more movies with a bit more bite to them.