Movie Review: Green Inferno

Gracing Film 4’s Frightfest, here’s Scott Davis’ verdict on Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno…

For many years now, director Eli Roth has been considered the premium purveyor of horror by many fans across the globe. His taste for all things gruesome (with a dash of black humour), has seen him enjoy great success, from his debut Cabin Fever, through Hostel and its sequel, placing him amongst the best horror filmmakers Hollywood has to offer. His latest, The Green Inferno, sees him return behind the camera for the first time since 2007, and the results are mixed.

Right off the bat, let it be known that this particular critic is not a fan of Roth’s work. His insistence on blood and gore rather than anything remotely resembling story or characters is his downfall, and the culture of “torture porn” can certainly be traced back in part to his earlier work. With The Green Inferno, however, while there is gore in spades, it is nevertheless a much more toned down film in that regard, and for some of the movie, it is definitely a much more mature show from Roth.

Inferno is Roth’s “love letter” to all things cannibal that were such a cult phenomenon back in the 1970’s and 1980’s. In those days of course, their shock value and “realism” tales were legendary, so much so that they were removed from circulation, and circle the “video nasties” list. In a strange case of serendipity, Inferno has suffered similar fate in the UK, now set for a straight-to-DVD release at some point in the next year. Though on viewing the film, it’s certainly not due to it’s gore factor, as while the film is very gory in places, it’s nowhere near the level of say Hostel.

When the splatter does come, (and it’s not hard to decipher when it presents itself) it is all handled far better than in any of his previous works. Well edited for maximum reactions, one particular scene at the midway point is certainly one the year’s horror highlights, and director, production designers and sound team deserve huge kudos for their efforts.

Indeed, in amongst all the horror elements, this time there is both a genuine story (college students form a coalition to stop the Peruvian government tearing down a tribal forest) and a group of characters that you genuinely care for. The lead character, Justine (played excellently by Lorenza Izzo) is a particular success for Roth, and has a far richer story arc than any that have come before in his body of work, as Aaron Burns’ contribution as the lovable Jonah, also a success.

But for every right decision, Roth makes an equal and opposite wrong one. Obviously uncomfortable when not “doing his thing”, all the good work done with the characters is undone by the director’s infantile impulses overpower them. Masturbation, toilet and drug humour are all well and good when used in the right setting, but when they are neither required nor particularly funny, it fizzles out any tension almost immediately, and ruins what could have been one of the horror films of the year.

While there is much to admire and indeed enjoy in The Green Inferno, director Roth’s old tricks rear their head and turn what could have been his masterpiece into his “perfectly fine” movie. There is a good story platform and characters that you actually care about as they begin their descent into “hell”, but Roth’s insistence on banal, pointless humour ultimately let the film down.

Scott Davis

Image courtesy of IMDb.

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