Sydney Underground Film Festival Review: The Green Inferno (USA, 2014)

You know what to expect from The Green Inferno the minute you find out that it comes from the gloriously twisted mind of Eli Roth. This is a man who brought us – among others – the hyper-violent Hostel franchise (at least the first two films; the third was a garbage rip off) and the equally sickening Cabin Fever. “Gore Porn” with a little bit of social commentary behind it seems to Roth’s approach, and ‘Inferno’ is his most didactic outing yet, revisiting his love for travelogue horror and messing up college kids by throwing a bunch of naive activists into the middle of a cannibalistic Peruvian tribe.

Obviously taking inspiration from Ruggero Deodato’s infamous Cannibal Holocaust, Roth brings a more commercial feel to the sparse horror sub-genre, throwing in an explicit satire of bandwagon activism with some excellent production. Making full use of the film’s necessary settings, ‘Inferno’ stands as Roth’s most colourful film to date; certainly his most expansive.

In the tradition of the first two Hostel films, it’s modern day college students and their lives that we get accustomed to for the first half of the movie. The characters, led by Roth’s partner Lorenza Izzo (as Justine), are fairly bland when compared to Hostel, leading you to invest less in the film. When Justine practically begs her way into a group of environmentalists, she finds herself making a rash decision to join a trip to the amazon in order to stop Westerners cultivating the natural habitat of a Peruvian tribe. It’s all fairly straight forward from here; they chain themselves to trees and use social media streaming to hold the hardhats accountable, a plan which seems to work as far as delaying the inevitable goes.

In celebration, the team of unlikable activists head back on a small plane which ends up crashing further into the rainforest; cue our first taste of gore, and Roth really starts to sink his teeth in. However, in continuing the lightness and cheap humour of the film, Roth directs the characters to do some really dumb, barely funny things to get themselves killed. For example, one guy walks into a spinning blade for no reason and gets half his head sliced open. It makes little sense and reveals the brainless (no pun intended) gore porn aspect that the film’s success really relies upon.

This isn’t Saw though; strangely enough Roth actually starts with the most sickening deaths first and let’s things gradually die down to the point where the horror film is neither bloodthirsty or compelling enough to entertain. After the first extremely graphic death we’re left with a preachy plotline jolted by the occasionally bad attempt at humour, thrown in for unbalanced measure. Perhaps the worst comes with a contrived twist in order to get the village folk smoking marijuana – an act which inevitable leads to the munchies; munchies and cannibals…you get the picture.

While the satire borders on the silly, and the horror is nowhere near enough to satisfy “gore porn” enthusiasts, The Green Inferno is left swinging in the middle. It’s worth a watch for those that enjoyed Roth’s previous efforts, but don’t go in expecting it to be even half as much fun as Hostel.

Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Running Time: 100 minutes

The Green Inferno screened as part of the Sydney Underground Film Festival