Those Cannibals Of Yore
Made Once Again New
By Eli Roth
That Modern Horror Maestro
AKA: “The Bear Jew” – – – Unknown
THE GREEN INFERNO, the latest release from that pretty boy of “Torture Porn” *(How I so loathe that term, for ‘70’s related exploitation throwback films are not “Torture Porn,” which I’ve watched for real on any number of perfectly mainstreamed rough porn sites – – – and this ain’t it, nor is any of the work that’s unfortunately been dipped in that particular form of linguistic chocolate terminology – – – that means I think it’s bullshit), ELI ROTH, I’ve been eagerly awaiting since it’s initial announcement of concept and production, sometime in mid-late 2013. Not necessarily because Roth directed it *(I find most of his work highly entertaining, and often gross-out humor hysterical at times, but otherwise, not usually anything special), but more because of what it was: a true horror-kid’s dream-homage to the Italian Cannibal Cycle of films that lasted, roughly *(in several senses of the word), from about the mid-70’s to mid-1980’s.
These were films like Ruggero Deodato’s JUNGLE HOLOCAUST, and his later *(and most notorious of the lot) CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, Umberto Lenzi’s CANNIBAL FEROX *(AKA: MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY) and EATEN ALIVE BY THE CANNIBALS, others like DR. BUTCHER, MD, which fused cannibals AND zombies, and a whole host of ever more cheaply made knock-offs of little to no variety, charisma, quality, or interest of any kind. Even Spain’s Jess Franco got in on them, with several different films, every last one of which practically unwatchable *(like most Franco fare). But the genres were an acquired taste, and not for everyone. *(Most were actually pretty much made primarily for export anyway.) Usually filled with rape, nudity, genuine animal atrocities, the standard castration scene, gut-munching, close-up human vomiting, dismemberment, and usually a faux-political “statement” of some kind to justify what you’ve just put yourself through, made of a generally sadistic nature few could stomach. Much like the other oddball Italian exploitation film cycles, which all occurred pretty much simultaneously *(Nazi’s, cannibals, zombies, and U.S. horror-hit ripoffs, primarily), were incredibly limited in both scope, and in what exploitative atrocity they had to offer, and each slowly fizzled out, almost completely by the late 1980’s. The Cannibal cycle was one of the first to disappear.
Jump ahead now to the past couple of years. While there’s most definitely been a resurgence in the mimicking and homaging of classic exploitation cinema, no one’s really re-entered the lush and densely claustrophobic rainforest jungles of Amazonia *(also the name of a film from the original cycle, aka: “Cut & Run,” from 1986 I believe) – – – until Eli Roth himself entered the Green Inferno.
While location scouting, the filmmakers found an actual “lost tribe,” and Roth essentially hired them to be in the film. However, not knowing what a film even was, Roth had to show them one to explain what he meant and needed. The film he showed them was CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, which this lost tribe thought was a comedy. They didn’t understand a word, but apparently laughed hysterically at all the cannibal-related scenes. *(In all reality somewhat unnerving, but also incredibly funny – – – I’m not so sure how I would have felt were I at this special screening.) The tribe accepted the offer, so while watching, keep in mind that you are in fact witnessing the first filmed sightings of a completely isolated tribe yourself. It’s neat to think about as the film progresses.
As for THE GREEN INFERNO itself – – – I absolutely loved it. *(Incidentally, the documentary that was being made within CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST was itself called The Green Inferno.) Roth nailed all sides of the cannibal-cycle coffin tight, throwing out an almost non-stop barrage of visual and verbal homages to just about every one of those classics *(well, to those familiar with them), blended with his own filmmaking style, an odd one that often brings out some of the funniest gross-out humor during some of the most horrific of events *(something I’ve always found a strong-point in his filmmaking, but does have its drawbacks – – – keep reading).
The film manages to add the modern equivalent of the aforementioned “faux political statement” by including an actual one: rotten millennials, with no concept of real life or strife, latching onto some cause or another they know nothing about – – – in this particular instance that misdirected idealism ending in the worst possible of ways. It also speaks on the money and deception behind many of these causes, and the accidental martyrdom of a monster *(a clever nod to Che Guevara is thrown in for good measure, and it works brilliantly). In fact, the ending is essentially pulled right from that of CANNIBAL FEROX (aka: MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY). However, a twist lies about five minutes into the credits, so stick around.
As for the amount of gore the film contains, it’s actually pretty gory for a mainstream release. In fact, in all reality, it’s at about the same level as that of the original films, and a lot of it as funny as it is horrifying. So I’m not sure just what exactly some of the other reviews I’ve seen are complaining about. As for nudity, every one of the captives should’ve been topless, if not outright in the buff, as that’s what usually happened in the original cycle *(I suspect a bit of studio interference, or actress bitching, honestly). There’s a little, though.
The original cycle wasn’t necessarily about the gore, but more the ever worsening brutality of the situations. There’s a graphic, brutal full-on prolonged dismemberment and gutting of one character, as the matriarchal leader of the tribe *(who by the way is absolutely frightening and did a terrific job portraying what we see as madness, but is merely a facet of their culture that we have no right in interfering with), proceeds to gleefully swallow down all the choice bits. I also thought that a nice touch, the fact that Roth made the insane leader, and general ways of the tribe, Matriarchal, as opposed to the classic Patriarchal tribes in the original go round of these films. It removes some of the misogyny associated with the sub-genre. Henceforth, the film contains no rape – – – that’s not their agenda *(another guaranteed archetype of the subgenre). Instead, it seems to be purity, and is carried out in ways just as ghastly as any other in their archaic and clandestine jungle world. The cycle-standard “castration” is there, but not as you would think. However, it’s no less disturbing, especially when they show a couple clips of the real thing, early on in the film. During a classroom scene, the students are watching a slideshow on female infibulation, and it’s use throughout at least a third of the world’s cultures for various reasons, from those of torture to those of rites of passage, and where and when, exactly, at which point should we interfere with those ancient cultural norms, if even we should at all. A bit heady for a Roth film, and to me the hardest part to watch *(those pics are fukking brutal).
He intersperses moments of true pantshitting terror *(quite literally in one very unexpected toilet-humor bit that explodes out of nowhere during one particular scene of chaos) with those of unexpected humor, sometimes a bit too much. I mean, I’m aware it’s Roth’s schtick, but it can sometimes detract from the ultimate atrocity you’re seeing on the screen. In THE GREEN INFERNO he uses it a bit too much, but there are some truly humorless scenes of outright horrific surrealism that play on all of man’s deepest reptilian-mind terrors, which in a sense may be the ultimate goal of the isolated jungle cannibal film. The scene when they are first discovered by the tribe is maniacal in its presentation; the “hymen check” for purity is intense, and not fun in the least *(though it is an obvious conclusion from its start). There are other things, but I’m working here to entice, and keep as spoiler-free as possible. So yes, he does give you occasional doses of humorless outright horror that actually work.
He works around the ugliest aspect of the original cycle, animal violence/torture, quite nicely by showing them in a light of beauty *(or humor, in one arachnoidal-homage, using the scene to it’s fullest comedic-terror effect), or of companionship. In fact, the tribes village is loaded with oxen, chicken, pigs and piglets, but the tribe only eat human, apparently. Especially when you resemble those ripping their home to shreds and destroying their environment. And the shots with the leopard are exquisite.
Ultimately, THE GREEN INFERNO works more than it doesn’t, and with his own unique touches, Roth manages to make something archaic, and virtually forgotten but amongst certain circles of the nerdiest of us horror nerds, new again. And any genuine fan of the original Cannibal cycle *(such as myself) will gleefully pick up on every piece of dialogue, plot development, camera shot and littlest homage to its original source, much as I did. In fact that alone had me giggling throughout. In a way, he Tarantino-ed the Cannibal subgenre. Meh, they are buddies, after all.
To the initiate, this may be gory, vicious, funny, and something you’ve not quite seen before. It gives a place from which to further hone your horror knowledge. To the connoisseur, it’s a little trip down memory lane, a little old hat perhaps but long overdue, and a fun way to kill two fly-by hours. This film should’ve been released around September of last year, and I was brokenhearted when it was shelved for a year, two days before release. So I’ve been waiting on this a bit now. Was it worth that wait? You’re goddamned right it was. I had a blast, and you most likely you will as well. And there is a slight bit of room left open for a possible sequel, which would indeed be interesting, given the circumstances at the end. Go check THE GREEN INFERNO out.
Vincent Daemon, writer, editor, musician, photgrapher, film/music buff and historian, and rabblerouser, can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/vincent.daemon.1 as well as his spontaneously updated blog of writing news and nonsense THE WRITINGS OF A DEPRAVED MIND http://vincentdaemon.blogspot.com/Some of his music can be painfully experienced at http://www.reverbnation.com/vincentdaemonsageofdesire3 His email is firstname.lastname@example.org