Green Inferno has been a long time coming. Originally premiering at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, it was then intended for a September, 2014, release date. But financial difficulties at Worldview Entertainment saw the film pulled from release just weeks before, and it then became stuck in limbo for months.
During this period the fact that people knew it included cannibals and was from the mind of Eli Roth meant that the film soon started to receive an almost mythical status as people started to guess at just how debauched The Green Inferno actually was.
So how bad is it? It's pretty bad, in both a good and bad way. Eli Roth does a fine job at creating genuinely nauseating and bone-crunching scenes of gruesome horror and gore that fans of his will adore to see, while more casual moviegoers will probably be left either throwing their popcorn immediately back-up or dashing towards the exits. But before you get to that point you have to choke back plenty of cinematic balderdash that actually enhances the film once it gains momentum.
Green Inferno revolves around Justine (Lorenza Izzo), a college freshman in New York City who is drawn into the world of social activism. After only a few short days of vowing to save the world, Justine finds herself as a member of a group that have decided to take a trip to the Amazon rainforest to put their money where their mouths are to stop deforestation.
In fact, through their actions, they succeed, stopping the bulldozers from ploughing through the woodland. But during their plane journey back across the vast forest, disaster strikers and their aircraft crash lands in amongst the endless trees. Safety arrives for the few that survived in the shape of a native tribe. But this is just the start of their troubles, as it turns out that they’re cannibals.
There’s a wonderful DIY quality to Green Inferno, as the camera captures the gorgeous greens of the Amazon rainforest and luscious surroundings are easy to fall in love with as they're so seldom seen on screen. All of which would be a lot easier to digest if it wasn’t for the cavalcade of bad acting that populates the film, while its social message of uninformed activists doing more harm than good is so ham-fisted that you’re almost forced to choke it down.
However, to be fair to the film, criticisms of Green Inferno’s characters are missing the point. That's because our lack of association or care for those involved only leads to us wanting to see them get maimed and devoured more vigorously. Sure, for the first half of the film, which is only salvaged once they arrive in Peru and we get a genuine sense of the country’s flavor, it’s rather tedious and at points it is downright annoying to spend time with these hipster activists.
But when they’re at first encaged and then ripped to shreds by the very same cannibals that they’ve just helped to save, you can’t help but enjoy it. Then there are the cannibal scenes themselves, which are particularly hard to sit through. However, there’s a car crash quality to them that means you simply can't not watch as eyes are gauged, limbs are torn off, and shrieks are ultimately silenced.
Along the way there are some missteps - especially the looming threat of female castration, which just seemed unnecessary, while it’s borderline racist in its depiction of the tribe - but once Green Inferno gets into its cannibal scenes it does a fine job of ramping up the tension and thrills while at the same time as depicting horrid, bloody deaths at the hands of savages.
Die-hard horror fans might have seen it all before. But cannibal films like this don’t get to flirt with the mainstream every day, and, once it gets going, The Green Inferno is ultimately a rollicking and brutal horror film that you’ll really want to look away from, but will nevertheless enjoy.