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Eli Roth is, without a doubt, a talented filmmaker. He knows how to construct a scene, build tension and stage gory violence. Roth also clearly knows a lot about movies and genre cinema. The Green Inferno, his latest directorial effort, is therefore all the more disappointing. It was hardly a surprise given his previous track record though. Eli still has a bit of growing up to do. The Green Inferno is not offensive (although is desperately tries to be), but it is a puerile, inconsistent product of an immature mind. Watching this film is like sitting at a table with children who have just discovered swearing and farts. It’s been more than two years since the premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, and we have not been missing much.
Stephen King was a fan of the film and tweeted: “The Green Inferno is like a glorious throwback to the drive-in movies of my youth: bloody, gripping, hard to watch, but you can’t look away.” This assessment sums up the movie’s strengths and weaknesses perfectly. The seventies are over this and Roth is not as clever and modern as he thinks he is. The core of the movie is actually quite fun once it finally gets going. A group of college activists led by the handsome Alejandro (Ariel Levy) travels into the Amazon to halt the destruction of the rainforest and save a tribe from certain extinction. Within their ranks is freshman Justine (Lorenza Izzo), whose father works at the United Nations. One plane crash later, the students find themselves in a wooden cage while one of them is slaughtered and prepared for dinner by a pack of hysterical natives.
The shocking nature of the violence is no problem. Neither are the clumsy dialogue and dodgy acting. In fact, it is welcome is this kind of film. However, Roth makes no real attempt to be scary. Once the tedious first act is over, one violent act simply follows the next. Some are fun, some are not so much. On top of that, the violence is needlessly sexualised. Why is it necessary to bring female genital mutilation, introduced in the beginning in a clumsy bit of exposition, into the mix? Aren’t cannibals scary enough? It’s not like the film has anything to say about the issue. It just sits there uncomfortably. I’m not going to go into details about the film’s ideas about the hypocrisy of activism for spoiler reasons. Roth tries to be clever, but takes it too far into the realm of the unbelievable.
The humour is very much hit and miss. There are some laughs (they get the entire village stoned by hiding weed in the stomach of their dead friend), but some jokes are just embarrassing. The film seems to be geared for an audience who will not even be allowed to watch it at the cinema: pubescent boys. Eli Roth should be forced to make a grown-up drama or a romantic comedy before he is allowed to play with his horror toys again. Maybe he will grow up and put his talents to good use one day.
PS: Knock, Knock is not it.