THE GREEN INFERNO
September 2015 | (USA) | Eli Roth | 103 min | R |
Eli Roth’s Green Inferno makes horror oh, so beautiful.
Let’s start this review with what you want to know about this film. The Green Inferno is about a group of slightly self-righteous college activists who aim to save an indigenous tribe of Peruvians from destruction in the name of finding natural gas. Along the way, the misguided advocates go down in a plane only to be consumed by the jungle and perhaps its inhabitants. Those of you who have not lived in a vacuum for the past decade know that Eli Roth is most recognized for his torture-porn style and extreme gore. I know that Mr. Roth has been quoted saying that he considers it a good thing if his audience has to run screaming from the theater. He wants to evoke a visceral reaction from his audience even if it means they only see the film in pieces as they peek through their fingers, but that’s not quite the case here.
The Green Inferno is a good horror film, and not half as alienating as the critics argue. Friends of mine were reluctant to see the film because it was touted as a gore fest. Reviews suggest that you should eat your popcorn first and keep the bucket to puke in. I realize that beautiful, smart, and great story are not the eye grabbing headlines Mr. Roth might long for, but his film is all of the above. And yes, there is gore (it’s a friggin’ horror movie, guys) but much less than I expected.
If it was a reaction that Eli Roth wanted, he got one from me. I was left with a sense of awe as well as a new appreciation for his technique. The Green Inferno wasn’t just a good horror film, it was a good film. In his attempt to resurrect the cannibal subgenre, Eli Roth stamps his special brand of horror on the group.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK:
The scenes that appeal to the less developed horror mind. There is one random scene of extended diarrhea that could easily be omitted. In addition there is another scene that involves a spider that might have evoked more terror in me if I were a male. Nonetheless, both were simple minded distractions from the real horror. There are smarter ways to repulse that don’t involve genitals or fecal matter. That’s really my only gripe.
Eli Roth masterfully manages to build tension through confinement in the vast jungles of Peru. I mean seriously, how does he do it?! In one of the largest, most open areas on earth, The Green Inferno brings you to a fever pitch by making you feel so trapped. There are several ways this happens. First, he brings technology to its knees and exposes its short comings like the missing scale on Smog’s chest. Next he uses camera angles to bring light to the overwhelming number of villagers grabbing, touching, and closing in on their new guests. Then he builds upon each character and their relationships with one another to portray betrayal and fault for their circumstance. And finally, he encloses the troop in a cage, but a penetrable one at that. Roth never relies on the characters telling you they feel hopeless or stuck. In fact, it is quite the opposite. You never get the sense they are giving up hope or that they don’t have some type of plan. He allows the camera to do the talking and goads his audience into feeling the sense of dread.
The Green Inferno evokes feeling through its use of color as well as its character development. I was previously struck by the beauty of horror when I watched Christina Ricci slash a man’s throat in Lifetime’s Lizzie Borden Chronicles. The artistic spin of her cape, the slowing of time, and the vivid splash of arterial blood. Eli Roth brought me back to that moment. His vivacious use of color enhanced the genre most known for exposing the use of shadow and inability to see. Furthermore, he gives a nod to classic horror 101 by making a sympathetic monster and deserving victims. Some are critical of the exploitive nature of the portrayal of tribesmen as savages. I get it, but if you actually watch the film he has an ability to humanize the captors. Specifically by showing them performing everyday tasks, communicating, and playing. Even the tribal matriarch with her grotesque talon is refined by the camera’s prolonged gaze into her eyes. She is not some crazed, insane freak but you get the sense she is just doing what she has to do especially to those who don’t belong, who fall out of the sky into her back yard.
Roth brings the social commentary. I am always building upon my own definition of horror. Like Mr. Roth I believe it must evoke emotion and cause a rush of endorphins. I also feel that good horror should also arouse debate through underlying social commentary. A final part of my holy trinity includes building upon an existing dialogue with horror much like the hip-hop culture which samples other rap artists and creates its own discourse from within. Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno accomplishes these things with authority. He proves critics wrong by demonstrating that he can make a really good horror film without wholly relying on torture porn.