Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Feed me more: Eli Roth's The Green Inferno

I'm not this jaded. I can't be. I haven't been able to sit comfortably through a number of movies and TV shows lately. Anything involving children in danger hits me right in the gut ever since my son was born.

Watching Eli Roth's THE GREEN INFERNO, however, I never really found myself discomforted. Sure, there was a young woman in front of me who looked like she was going to puke when a character's eyes were gouged out and eaten while he was still alive, but it didn't bother me that much.

The cannibalism in the film, portrayed by native actors and the excellent effects work of Nicotero & Berger, felt too subtle. Weird, right? Green Inferno had been built up as the ultimate R-rated gorefest and I can honestly say I was disappointed. Eli Roth's HOSTEL, to me, was much more visceral and extravagantly gory. Maybe that's the problem. Green Inferno was perhaps too authentic to be taken seriously. The tribe of cannibals never seemed malicious, just hungry. Livestock seemed plentiful so we never were given a reason for why this tribe engaged in cannibalism. It was just something to do, and again, seemed so normal that it couldn't rise to the level of being evil.

The film eventually explains itself away in a similar manner.

If anything was evil in the film, it was the specter of unaddressed female genital mutilation. The topic is introduced early and returns later as one of the environmentalist college students is prepped for a mutilation ceremony. Even then, the natives don't act like this is out of the norm. As discussed in the movie, it is a common practice around the globe (unfortunately). Equating it with the less-common practice of cannibalism may be stretching the point so far as to be unbelievable. In other words, if we can't believe these people would actually engage in cannibalism, then why should we believe they would participate in FGM? The portrayal of the message defeats its purpose.

You might be asking yourself if Roth is smart enough to even think about including a message in his movies and the answer is yes. Roth's three major films (Cabin Fever, Hostel, and The Green Inferno) have a clear common message: if you go somewhere you don't belong, you will regret it. You might even die. he uses other trappings -- American xenophobia being the most common, as well as misogyny, environmental issues, and fear of disease -- to allow him to be gruesome. Social issues have regularly been used in horror films (don't get me started), but the best of them put the story first and the message second. Here, Roth seems to try to put the message first and loses the story, particularly at its end.

It's not all bad. In a time when we are bombarded by remakes and sequels, it's good to be able to get out and see something original. (How original The Green Inferno is can be debated. Roth hasn't shied away from his love of Italian cannibal movies and his influences here are Tarantino-esque.) The cinematography that captures the Amazonian jungle is breathtaking and the mix of greens, reds, browns, and yellows is a visual delight.

Threat level: YELLOW. Go see it to support original horror or to see a horror flacon the big screen before October truly kicks in.

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