For a good chunk of its running time, Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno is unquestionably his worst movie yet.
However, there is then a moment of redemption, of sorts: A plane crashes in the jungle, culminating in some annoying college students winding up on an indigenous tribe’s picnic menu. With this, the film offers a few good gross-outs, and as a result, The Green Inferno winds up being just one of Roth’s worst films, along with Hostel: Part II.
The main protagonist in this messed-up movie is Justine (Lorenza Izzo), a somber college student whose dad works for the United Nations. Justine is getting woken up in the morning by a band of protestors who are trying to get the college janitors benefits. The group is led by Alejandro (Ariel Levy), your typical, acoustic-guitar-strumming, throw-your-arms-around-the-whole-world activist asshole.
Justine is recruited for a trip to the Amazon jungle, where Alejandro plans to disrupt some bulldozers that are there to displace tribes and wreck the forest. She’s grouped with a band of mostly forgettable performers—and the movie is unspeakably bad during its first half. There is bad acting, bad writing, bad set design, bad outfits, bad fake tattoos—just about everything that could be bad in a movie is bad.
Then the group’s plane crashes, and the natives who find them are not only restless, but really, really hungry. The crew is horrifically groped as they are led to a cage. Then things get really bad when the leader of the tribe pokes the eyes out of a living victim and eats them. Said victim is then chopped into pieces (still alive) and put in a smoker (I think he was dead by then) for a good old-fashioned Amazonian barbecue.
This grisly scene, concocted by Roth and makeup artists Ozzy Alvarez and Jonah Levy, is, dare I say, awesome. It’s terrifying, and gross in that way that only zombie movie fans will appreciate. I’d put it in a league with that kid getting his mouth ripped open on The Walking Dead, and any number of disembowelments from the earlier Romero zombie films. In short … BLECCHH!!!
There’s an uncomfortable plot thread involving female genital mutilation that I could’ve done without, as well as a couple of other gore sequences (Spy Kid Daryl Sabra has a rather bad time in this movie) that are pretty good, even if they don’t compare to the first “feeding.”
It’s hard to say who the worst performer is in this film. Maybe singer Sky Ferreira, who pollutes a good portion of the movie’s Manhattan scenes? Perhaps Aaron Burns (also on the film’s effects crew), who is terrible in his straight acting scenes? I think I will let Burns off the hook, because he is the movie’s first cannibal victim, and he dies well. The winner for shittiest The Green Inferno performance is … Sky Ferreira!
The tribe members—extras were played by actual jungle villagers—were allegedly recruited to be in the movie after Roth screened Cannibal Holocaust (a major inspiration for this movie) for them. They are the best performers in the movie, making the most of Roth’s one-note, ugly script.
The movie was completed more than two years ago, held up by financial mumbo-jumbo, and then nearly thrown on the permanent scrap heap. Except for about 15 minutes, Roth should’ve let this one stay buried. Its notoriety as an unreleased film was sort of cool—much cooler than the movie itself. Roth is a hit-and-miss director, and this one is a giant whiff.
Up next for Roth is Knock Knock, a horror film about infidelity starring Izzo and Keanu Reeves. After that, he’s supposed to direct the giant-shark movie Meg. If Knock, Knock fails as bad as The Green Inferno, Roth might not get to make his prehistoric shark movie. Heck, he might not get to make any big movies for a very long time.
The Green Inferno is now playing at the Ultrastar Mary Pickford Stadium 14 (36850 Pickfair St., Cathedral City; 760-328-7100); the Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 (72777 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage; 844-462-7342); and the Century Theatres at the River (71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage; 760-836-1940).