'The Green Inferno' offers gore, commentary on youth culture

Eli Roth's 'The Green Inferno,' which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, uses cannibalism to make a point about the naivete of young people.

In an early scene in Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno, college student Justine (Lorenza Izzo) sarcastically questions activist Alejandro’s (Ariel Levy) ludicrous plan to save Peruvian natives from a construction company. Alejandro calls her insolent.

It’s not the last time he reacts with overbearing condescension in the film, and that should come as no surprise. Roth’s films (Cabin Fever, Hostel) are best known for their graphic violence and horror, but they’re also darkly funny portraits of how youthful arrogance leads to disaster. Roth pays tribute to the 1970s Italian cannibal movies like Cannibal Holocaust with his new film, which skimps neither on gore nor satire.

Justine, Alejandro and about a dozen others form a group of activists that will eventually wind up as items on a Peruvian village’s dinner menu, but as with most Roth films, there’s a deliberate build to the carnage. Roth gets a lot of mileage out of the activists’ naiveté, entitlement and pettiness as they complain about lack of proper bathrooms or fight over each other’s boyfriends. There’s also irony to the travelogue beauty of the first half, given the massacre that awaits.

green inferno

The movie shifts gears in the second half as the filmmaking grows more frenetic, the framing more claustrophobic. Roth’s greatest gift is his unpredictability -- he shifts from the early death of a sympathetic character to moments of pitch-black wit, from the presence of unharmed cows in a voracious village to pot-addled cannibals getting the munchies. He also balances guiltily entertaining bloodshed with drawn out scenes of true discomfort -- a scene of near-genital mutilation drags out the breathless tension to almost interminable degrees. 

Roth can’t quite overcome the queasy racial politics of the subgenre -- this is still a movie where natives chase and massacre frightened white people. Even then, it’s largely secondary to all of the sick fun.


Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.