Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno finally got a theatrical release today. As a fan of Roth’s earlier films Cabin Fever and Hostel, I felt he was long overdue to direct another feature film. As in Hostel, Roth once again explores themes of entitled Americans traveling abroad without a proper understanding of the culture or of the risks involved. This time, a group of student activists are captured and brutalized by the same South American tribe they wanted to save.
Those who have followed prerelease news about The Green Inferno know that it’s inspired by films such as Cannibal Holocaust, and that influence is apparent with some modifications. Most notably, Roth eschewed scenes of rape and onscreen animal abuse (real or simulated). I found the non-simulated killing of animals in Cannibal Holocaust to be that film’s biggest flaw, so didn’t find its absence in The Green Inferno to be a loss. Roth’s redux of the sub-genre still has plenty of cringe-inducing moments, including a scene in which a screaming activist has his eyes gouged out onscreen, and is then dismembered alive before finally being decapitated. Subsequent scenes of the cannibals flaying and preparing his flesh to eat also prove to be sufficiently nauseating.
Like its predecessors, The Green Inferno depicts the the culture of the first-world colonialists to be just as barbaric as that of the cannibal tribe. But where Roth’s re-interpretation truly shines is in his caustic commentary on modern activism. And it’s one that has personal relevance to me. Had I not spent 15 years of professional and volunteer work in various activist groups and non-profits, I would have found this film to be far too cynical. I’ve seen truly amazing work by people who have a genuine passion to make a difference. And I’ve also met a handful of…the other type. While a detailed description of these experiences would merit a separate post, suffice it to say that I’ve worked with racist “feminists” and smug faux-hippies who took home six-figure incomes while paying full-time direct service staff $17K per year. I’m convinced that most of these activists just wanted the PR or to reassure themselves of their own worth. Some of these unwholesome exploited workers who were sincere about making a difference, sometime putting those workers’ lives at risk, sometimes endangering the people they purported to serve, and in the process perpetuating the original problem in the process.
Roth created two particularly rotten pseudo-activists, and if there is one complaint I have about this film, it’s the fact that these two characters didn’t receive an appropriate onscreen comeuppance. (Some of my favorite aspects of Hostel were its gleeful revenge scenes and general philosophy of instinct karma.) It’s an interesting choice given the graphic deaths of some of the more likable characters. The Green Inferno is definitely worth checking out, especially if you are a fan of Roth’s earlier work.
The Green Inferno is now available on Blu-ray and DVD: