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The Green Inferno
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Green Inferno is an extremely gory cannibal/torture/horror movie from Eli Roth. It contains incredible amounts of violence and blood; characters are sliced up, cooked, and eaten, as well impaled and chopped up in a plane crash. Both men and women are briefly seen fully and/or partially naked; young women are also shown in bras and panties, and there's brief innuendo and kissing. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "a--hole." A character gets a bag of pot and smokes a joint; the pot becomes part of the plot later and is used to get a whole tribe of cannibals high. Roth has an enthusiastic fan club; they'll definitely want to see this, and they may even forgive it. But for most viewers, it will be a truly vile, amateurish, hateful, insulting experience.
Is social commentary effective if the majority of the audience doesn't get it? I'm on the fence ...
Reading the other interviews here makes me think of people who criticize Starship Troopers or Fight Club for being "too fascist." On one hand, both films are designed to satirically criticize fascism, not embrace it -- on the other hand, it seems like the majority of the audience didn't understand and, especially in Fight Club's case, it seems to have encouraged rather than dismantled the enemy it was criticizing. Like someone taking the Onion seriously, or angrily disagreeing with some conservative talking point on the old Colbert Report, do people "not getting it" and therefore proving its point work as victories or defeat? IF art is art (rather than straight propaganda), where is the line between something that works and doesn't when it comes to satire, juxtaposition, and commentary? When it's CLEARLY the director's fault (like Kubrick cutting the all-important final chapter of Burgess's A Clockwork Orange), that's one thing -- but, like an early audience rejecting Andy Kauffman for being "too weird," at what point does a film just "need a niche audience" versus "not work?"
In case you ARE considering watching this film, please go into it recognizing its efforts to both satirize and struggle with western-style activism/economic colonialism. Other reviews seem to be suggesting that the movie is 100% about the extreme violence/gore of the tribe, with the "other" info (the UN, the use of barely informed/trending social media, the corporations, and, though a liberal academic myself, yes--liberal/left-leaning education and progressivism, etc.) being merely plot vehicles to get us there and therefore easy to ignore, rather than seeing Eli Roth's efforts to hold the extreme gore and violence (and its mundaneness to the tribe) as a hard-to-watch "mirror up to nature" for the surrounding story.
The U.N. lawyer, who both does nothing to help due to "procedures," but also jokingly wishes for the days of overt military colonialism; the professor who shows snapshots w/zero true ethnographic information or responsibility; the corrupted activist organizer willing to partner with his enemy if it helps "the big picture," the lure of "missionary"/"savior" work (whether church or social justice based), and on and on. The worst of international economic imperialism AND the worst of "charity imperialism" converge on this spot, literally bringing their "capitalist" vs. "idealist" war onto other people's land (as has been the case for centuries). BOTH are exploitive and violent "consumers" -- the bull-dozing capitalists for obvious reasons, but--in Roth's telling--the wealthy university students as well, not to mention the meta-narrative about the "consumers" who are watching the students' video online (and, in turn, we, the consumers who are watching it ourselves). There is a reason that the end credits include the actors' twitter handles -- it's all there in Alejandro's speech about gaining followers.
The "evil capitalist organization" that partners with Alejandro is more than happy to kill off the tribe, Alejandro's group (remember the sabotage?), their "insider," and a major part of Earth's ecosystem in order to support economic prosperity. The "good" activist group (as led by Alejandro and Kara--don't forget, this isn't a "he's just a jerk" story) is more than happy to HELP that corporation in order to gain influence, even to the extent of risking the others' lives while lying about their intentions, killing off others to maximize their own chances for survival, and, of course, using the UN lawyer's daughter as a "sacrifice."
Every decision in this film can be traced back to this central argument. From the "best friend" (with obviously dyed hair, itself a wink) mockingly eating in front of the "starving" students and saying they should be teargassed for having the nerve to inconvenience her to the extravagant lunch father/daughter have in front of the non-eating friend who "begs" for a bit of bread to the star "eating" Alejandro in the dream sequence, Roth uses age-old western ignorance and racism to create a fictionalized aboriginal people to have them "consume" the consumers... only to have, within the plot, its star then fictionalize them again.
The vast majority of the reviewers on here argue that the shocking violence and gore of the tribe (and its obvious call-backs to racist/imperialist violence) is what is wrong with this movie, several going so far as to argue that we should be better than this. I would argue that Roth's film (much like Hostel, which is similarly often viewed as being about those "scary" other nations, actually features Americans traveling there as consuming tourists [both the murdered and the murderers], with those who live there serving as [from a PLOT, not an ethical, perspective] neutral facilitators) is serving to say that we are NOT "better" than this. One of the best aspects of the film, I would argue, is how "every day" and ethically neutral the tribespeople view the violence against those they see as their enemies. Old women salting flesh, young children playing, etc.; we are horrified by their casual reaction to the violence, and yet the reviews reveal that many viewers, focusing on the loudest, most spectacle-driven aspects (i.e., the gore), unsurprisingly lost focus on the literal genocide occurring that causes the plot to occur in the first place.
I ***DO NOT*** suggest this makes those reviewers somehow "wrong" or "stupid" -- instead, I think this is exactly what Roth wanted! I think he regularly makes this comment, through his art, about his art and other forms of detachment. I'd compare it to Donald Glover/Childish Gambino's brilliant "This is America" video, in which, if you just focus on the dancing, you'll miss everything in the background.
The difference, however, is that Glover includes numerous "signpost" moments to shake you out of being engrossed by the entertainment and focus on the message; the conversation, for the most part, gets through.
I'd argue the same is MOSTLY true with Starship Troopers. Though not entirely, it seems the "this is criticizing how easily we succumb to fascistic rhetoric and pressure" has largely been accepted by film audiences (even if it wasn't when it first came out). But what about Fight Club? Even now, it seems like far too many 15-25 year old alienated boys and man-boys sit around watching it and believing it speaks to their deluded fantasies of masculinity and purpose, rather than that it is calling them deluded.
I'm afraid The Green Inferno (and so much of Roth's work) is like that. Every last character is a consumer, every last character benefits from violence ... I would argue that Roth is NOT trying to support old racist xenophobia, but rather to call out post-industrial society's relationship with the earth and its people for what it is when the daily noise and distractions are stripped away.
... but ... as seen in these reviews ... for the vast majority of its audiences, it's just more noise and distraction. Like Fight Club and Hostel, many of its most ardent fans seem to think it says the opposite of what it does. I recently stumbled upon the bewildering fact that many extreme neo-n's have embraced "American History X," and simply will themselves to believe that it supports their beliefs, rather than being a direct refutation.
What do we do with these films? Do we count such fans "against" a film? What do we do when those who are likely to be most drawn toward social justice and trying to address the very issues that Roth is decrying are the ones least likely to actually watch the film, while "Faces of Death"-style fans will flock and cheer rather than be repulsed and introspective?
If the film is viewed with the above lens, it is easily a four-star, and borders on a five-star. If not, but is rather viewed as nothing more than a racist gore-fest, then it's not even worthy of a single star. How are we to judge a film like this? Perhaps more importantly for this particular website's mission -- IS there a strong, educational, enlightened conversation that a parent could have with their college-aged student about the difficult themes here?
Rating-wise, I would argue, when finding its audience, Green Inferno is a very high four star, whereas, when seen through the lens of pure exploitation (as so many people have viewed it), it's vile and worth less than one star. So ... what to do? I would argue it deserves a "polar" three star (i.e., not that it's "in the middle," but that it's both "best" and "worst" simultaneously) -- in this case, I'm bumping it up one more star to a four in an attempt to contextualize the overwhelming one-star reviews it has received, as I do NOT believe a blanket "this is trash"/one-star rating is in any way appropriate for this film.
All of this said -- considering the website we're on, is this a film for kids? No. No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no. It's not even a film for most adults... but it is a worthwhile film nonetheless.
I think a lot of parents would comment negatively about this movie. And I will agree it is not for everyone, however while people are complaining about the movie being “dumb” and how “Justine did wrong by lying” I do think this movie had more of a deeper meaning to it. Personally, as someone who loves gore I thought this movie was great. This movie was not just another horror/ thriller movie where everyone dies. There was a good plot to it. I think Eli Roth did a great job so for those complaining how it was too much or he should draw the line here , should stick to watching pg movies because viewers discretion was advised. The gore was great, the plot was good , the camera work was decent. Over all this movie was 4/5 stars for me.
College freshman Justine (Lorenza Izzo), whose father is a UN lawyer, decides to become an activist to help stop female genital mutilation in other countries. She joins the charismatic Alejandro (Ariel Levy) on a trip to the Amazon to demonstrate against big companies bulldozing the rainforest. On the way back, their plane crashes, and a group of survivors is captured by a strange tribe of cannibals. If they can hold on, they might be rescued -- or they could try to escape. But infighting and an unexpected betrayal complicate matters, and none of them may ever make it out of the jungle.
Is It Any Good?
Director Eli Roth returns to the director's chair with this vile, incompetent, dumb, hateful cannibal torture film. The movie goes wrong in so many ways, it's hard to know where to start. First, there's the atrocious acting, which isn't helped by sub-par writing or a collection of blatantly stolen movie cliches. The clumsy directing is either overly staged or consists of bad shaky-cam work. And the gore is strong, but it's freak show stuff, with no specific purpose other than to shock.
The movie's take on non-Western cultures (i.e., if it's different it must be wrong, and/or scary) is insulting; this comes from Roth's decades-old source material, the controversial Cannibal Holocaust (1980), whose working title was THE GREEN INFERNO. Finally, there's Roth's questionable treatment of his now-wife, star Izzo, whose character is tortured, bloodied, and nearly drowned. This isn't a healthy movie. Hopefully Roth's fan club will finally draw the line here.