The list of movies about college coeds trekking into jungles to be eaten by cannibals is long and bloody. Littering the genre are decades of body parts, entrails and gore, filling a gratuitous but necessary niche. The scenario, of course, breaks a big rule: “Don’t go in the jungle.” However, it is broken for a good reason–to have horror! Yes! Since horror must have victims (and since it must have cannibals), at least give victims a reason to risk death in the worst way—being violated, dismembered, and eviscerated, with their body parts devoured as they watch. Please also give victims a reason to go in the jungle that makes sense—something that makes us all say, “Yeah, I’d do that too,” instead of “No, you’re a dumbass.” Also, please make the movie about something more than college kids going into a jungle and being eaten by cannibals (unless you’re going to do that, and only that, exceptionally well). The Green Inferno gives its victims purpose to go in a jungle. However, half-baked as they are, the movie succeeds only as a gore-fest/eco-drama wannabee, too underdone and pretentious to be anything appetizing, even for the starving.
Why is The Green Inferno’s jungle adventure rationale “half-baked,” you ask? It’s all centered around the futile efforts of coed activists, looking to preserve the homes of indigenous jungle natives (unbeknownst to them, “the cannibals”). How they plan to do this is how the story gets ridiculous: go to the jungle, where it is being destroyed, chain yourself to a tree and dare the armed South American workers to continue? Yeah, right! Dare them to continue, because you are allegedly able to broadcast your cell-phone video to the world in real time? Although the power of video streamed on social media is undeniable, it is not reasonable to plan on satellite signals being reliable in a remote jungle, in a life or death scenario. Regardless of who plans to do tricks to make it work, it’s just a dumb idea. Dumber is the confidence that such third-world militia will give a damn about your cell phones! So, the first problem The Green Inferno has is the trouble audiences have accepting human stupidity. While the movie has a lifeline to reality (with characters as dumb as some real people), it tests the patience of most audiences to watch it.
Does it get worse? Yes! The same plan that the college students have (the one the audience knows is stupid), winds up working. Yeah right, again! Somewhere along the way already, we need a little relief with something called reality–the likelihood of what would really happen. While the cell-phone plot should be stretching things more than enough for one movie, it gets worse again…and NOT in the way horror movies are better getting worse!
Assuming that all of this is believable to anyone, do we henceforth have a movie that does more than be a “cannibals eat humans movie”? No! Afterwards, and until the very end, that is exactly all it is. Can a horror movie be successful doing only this? Yes, but only if it does exactly that exceptionally well, when all else is fails. If The Green Inferno had gone on to be a realistic, no-holds-barred example of grindhouse exploitation, then it would, indeed, at least do something that needs to be done in horror. It would define itself early on, staying consistent, with apologies unnecessary. Does The Green Inferno do this? No, again! While things are definitely gory, they never go to the authentic extremes they should, with seriousness. The movie skips on the realism (rather than the quantity) of gore, diminishing it further. Sure, there are plenty of gross-out moments: organs and eyeballs being pulled from bodies and eaten raw, and bloody, decapitated heads being held high to ogle. Overall, however, I was unimpressed, more distracted by its cheesiness (ironically, while it was attempting to be more graphic and real..I guess). Too often, I wanted to laugh at something rather than be terrified or even disturbed. Cheap gore heaped on for shock value was out of place, and an overall failure. The movie’s most graphic scenes of dismemberment, evisceration and cannibalism always reminded me that they were fake.
As a cannibal movie that fails to be anything more, The Green Inferno should have gone for the jugular vein of the genre. Being more like earlier examples–Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferrox—would have served the movie better as a tastier treat, at least serving fans. Lacking overall is gritty, dirty realism, giving it better odds at success even as a throwback for nostalgia; with that, competition as a cult-classic contender or modern mimic may have been possible. The cannibals are too clean and well-groomed, rather than the unkempt savages they should be. An overall stylized Hollywood look gives everything the wrong effect, acting as an ironic, self-inflicted coup de grâce–about as far away from what’s needed as an aborigine can shoot an arrow. Among other flaws, cannibal villages are too polished and perfect, too much like the movie sets they really are. Watching scenes in the village felt more like watching a behind-the-scenes featurette, during the movie. With all of this, I was never able to detach myself from awareness of the artificial environment–another big problem!
Another area in which The Green Inferno underdelivered was with nudity. Yes! Call me what you want, but there are scenes where people could have been naked, or half-naked at least—victims as well as indigenous people. Be it cliched or not, such added realism would have been powerful. In the only scene where a particular female victim is naked, the camera is careful not to show more than a flash of a nipple, and the actress is intentional about posing in just the right ways to hide herself (as directed, I’m sure). It wouldn’t be as bad, if the camera didn’t seem so afraid of showing more. Later, the same woman is clothed by the cannibals in a makeshift, tribal bikini, covering all the right places. At least have her topless at this point! Even National Geographic shows us that much! Was I drooling to see the woman naked? No. Is her cannibal bikini disturbing? Yes, because it looks stupid! Does the camera’s contrived avoidance of nakedness diminish realism? Yes, absolutely! This is a cannibal horror movie, for Pete’s sake! Savage people are eating college activists in the jungle! Witch doctors are sticking wooden claws in women’s vaginas, finding the token virgin yet again! Sometimes, a little nudity is just what’s necessary. This is one of those times! At least ditch the funky bikini!
Other implausible scenes made the movie even worse. A captive uses a stick to shove marijuana down the throat of a dead girl, thinking the cannibals will get high after they eat her. Although there is nowhere near enough weed to have such an effect on so many, it works! Does it get worse? Yes! While the dead girl gets marijuana shoved down her throat, another character in the cage is watching and jacking off! Of course, there are such perverted people in the world—those who would ejaculate at the sight of the dead being abused. However, adding this to the movie, at the point where it occurs, serves the movie in no good way. Why include such overtly stupid things in a movie, only dragging it down further? Anyone writing the script, acting the parts, or involved in the movie’s production in any way, should see this…easily! Here, any potential for the film being of any worth is totally destroyed.
Acting overal was mediocre, with only a couple of exceptions. The lead female actor, Lorenza Izzo, does an excellent job of playing an otherwise intelligent college girl (Justine), initially hesitant about a trip to a jungle protest, later-regretful to have gone. Actually, Izzo is the highlight of the movie, with a performance that transcends everything else. Her energy, passion and emotion make Justine easily authentic and believable, as a standout. However, all of that, along with a heroes job of saving herself, are far from enough to save the movie. Izzo (as Justine) is an actress (and a character) in a movie that has failed early on, as she still works to save it. Another character in the forefront is Alejandro (Ariel Levy), the charismatic fraudster everyone should stay away from, but everyone is drawn to anyway; his seriousness in playing the part saves other characters from being totally stupid, giving them an excuse only as weak-willed followers of anyone with a cause. Other characters are mostly underdeveloped and forgettable, clearly there only to be victims. While this is expected, it does nothing to make us care about their deaths or more about the movie. Here, deficits with acting diminish the movie further.
In the end, is there anything special about The Green Inferno? No. Does it do anything done before, as well or better? No. Is it the all-out cannibal’s buffet of blood, guts and nudity it needs to be, without aspiring for more? No. Is it about anything more than people who go into a jungle and get eaten by cannibals? Mostly, no! Is it worth a one-time viewing (as a rental), when you have nothing better to do, if you REALLY love cannibal movies, no matter how lacking? Yes. More like a snack than a buffet, it’s better than nothing…I guess!