As we know, Eli Roth is one of those directors who is kind of a “love him or hate him” filmmaker, making movies that have been reviled and crucified by critics since his cult film Cabin Fever grossed out moviegoers back in 2002. As for me, I absolutely love him because his films successfully assault the audience and refuse to hold back. I have to say that they have the energy of Sam Raimi and the unapologetic gore of Lucio Fulci; they also have actual depths of intelligence that most of those pesky critics fail to realize. So case in point, all of Roth’s previous films were basically a build up to his 2015 shocker The Green Inferno.
Roth’s muse and real-life wife Lorenza Izzo plays Justine, a New York college student who encounters Alejandro (Ariel Levy), a handsome activist going on a fasting strike while trying to fight for underpaid custodians. After meeting and making friends with Jonah (Aaron Burns), who is also a member of Alejandro’s group, she agrees to travel with them to the Amazon jungle to help protect a dying tribe from extinction. Justine eventually lives to regret it after she and everyone crashes into the jungle where they end up in the murderous hands of the tribe that they are trying to protect. One by one, the remaining members of the group are tortured, dismembered, and eaten, leaving Justine alone to fight for her survival, as well as her sanity.
On the surface, Green Inferno looks like your typical grisly cannibal flick, but it is really a bleak depiction of understanding a people different from your own; a cautionary tale about the consequences of fighting for human rights, and a testament to Roth’s twisted filmmaking gifts. Going back to what I was saying about the actual depths of intelligence that critics usually miss, I’m going to defend Roth’s decisions all the way because his films are not just “torture porn central.” They are studies in bizarre human nature where evil can manifest itself at any place, at any time.
The gore effects by the famed team of Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger take center stage as the realism of the blood and guts hits you at such an intense level. However, it doesn’t go as far as infamous ‘classics’ such as Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox, which are still banned in certain countries to this day. I do love this because Roth knows how to hold back at certain times.
As for the acting, it is unusual because at first it seems atypical, which means cheesy and undermiming, but when you get deeper into the film, it becomes grounded because when the characters are captured and eventually killed, you feel their anguish and their pain as they try to figure out if they will survive. Izzo does a great job as Justine, who goes from naive student to tough heroine, as she tries to understand what’s going on around her. Levy does an amazing job as Alejandro, the handsome leader of the college group who ultimately becomes one of the truer bad guys in the film. Burns also does great work as Jonah, who falls for Justine but does nothing to start anything. His death is truly shocking because he is such a sympathic character and you’re sad when he is the first to go.
The Blu-ray release could have been better since it only has a photo gallery and an audio commentary with Roth, Izzo, Burns, and others. There are also trailers from other movies at the start of the disc, including The Visit, The Forest, Curve, and Visions.
Overall, I found it to be a truly visceral experience and it shows what horror cinema can really do, beyond just blood and guts. It just makes me an even bigger Eli Roth fan, and I truly respect him because after all, he is also a film geek just like me.