It’s not everyday that a film — let alone a horror one — inspires a global discussion. At best, there are few films that really get the community excited and talking. Last year we saw this with films like The Babadook and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, and earlier this year It Follows became a real hope for the genre. If you are reading this, there is no doubt that you have heard of today’s subject…
Eli Roth, love him or hate him, is one of the biggest names in horror. When it was announced, years ago, that his next project, The Green Inferno, was to be a cannibal film in the vein of the Italian classics, the scene was abuzz with speculation. His detractors were quick to spout of their usual “hack” retorts, but a great deal were still interested enough to see what he could pull off. Following its initial festival run, however, the film fell into distribution limbo, a lull that lasted two years. That lull has come to a close and, despite the protests, online petitions, and usual array of hate, Green Inferno was released last weekend to American audiences.
Rather than present a typical review or a lengthy think piece, both of which have been done to death, Diabolique felt that the subject deserved more of a discussion. It’s a complicated film, not only because of its potentially offensive subject matter but simply because Roth’s films have always been polarizing. Due to length, the conversation between our Editor-in-Chief, Max Weinstein, and Managing Editor, Joe Yanick, has been broken up into three installments.
This the second part of a three-part conversation. Please read part one here: https://diaboliquemagazine.com/the-green-inferno-conversation/
[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD]
JOE: What I have to disagree with you on is the intentions of the activists. The one thing that really bothered me was that Alejandro’s girlfriend, Kara (Ignacia Allamand), seems only into it because she is — to put it crudely — fucking Alejandro. Tag in a subplot pitting her against our lead, Justine, and it just came off as sexist male fantasy. While I admit, there is something a bit more innocent in Justine’s admiration/attraction to Alejandro, the ‘cattiness’ that unfolds seems so much the product of a man’s script. Maybe it’s just someone out of touch with 20-somethings, trying to tap into that college world (which I usually hate to be honest).
MAX: I agree the little back-and-forths between Kara and Justine are the products of sexist male imagination, but I stop short of saying that sexism plays a major part in that case, because I think that’s more about Alejandro’s self-indulgence than about how the two women are there to ‘compete for a man.’ That comes through when we discover that Alejandro recklessly, almost gleefully, conspires with Kara to put Justine at risk of being shot to death to ‘go viral.’ If anything, the most “out of touch with 20-somethings” moment for me was Roth and co-writer, Guillermo Amoedo’s, idea that a college student in 2015 would call activism “so gay.”
JOE: [Laughs] Tell me about it. But I almost give the pass for bad scripting because I feel that it was, at least, intentional. Here is something I can’t quite wrap my head around: what are your thoughts on the idea that the only reason that Justine survives is because she is a virgin?
MAX: It’s implied, not stated, so initially that was lost on me. But, yeah, for some reason, once the cannibal tribe discovers her virginity, they decide she can stay and kick it with them.
JOE: There’s not a lot of logic there. Granted, I am not an expert on the traditions of Amazonian tribal communities. It seems like a way to just get her dolled up in white.
MAX: It feels like Roth’s ‘muse moment,’ Izzo being his wife (girlfriend at the time they shot it). Which I’m not opposed to, plenty have done it. But yeah, lacking logic beyond that.
JOE: Which leads me to my one critique on the film’s racial connotations. Before this movie came out, people were writing lengthy diatribes against the film on these grounds, so certainly I won’t tread too much, but c’mon. The film’s thematic build up leads to Justine literally painted completely white, running away from two members of the tribe who are painted red. It’s one of the least subtle images I’ve seen. Other than that, it’s a cannibal film and it has the same pitfalls as all of them. I think that Roth’s biggest mistake is having them eat the one character alive. That seemed cruel and excessive (and the most racist because it isn’t even something you can say happens, which is often the excuse for these films).
MAX: When you point out the ‘painted white vs. painted red’ (and black and yellow!) thing, it feels screamingly obvious. But to be honest, that image struck me as incidental. I’m not so sure if Roth and Amoedo intended for Justine’s white paint to have racial connotations — though there’s definitely evidence on-screen for it. And the ‘eaten alive’ thing to me just feels like Roth going for the most bizarre situation in an exploitation film possible. The most racist aspect of this film for me is something that feels completely thought-out and intentional: the decision to not subtitle the words of anyone on the island, be they government officials, the deforestation group, or the cannibal tribe members. It plays out like a strategy to further alienate us from considering the possibility that they could be benevolent, rational, or human in any way. To its credit, the choice keeps us guessing and keeps things unpredictable, but the fact that it serves to distance us from the islanders at all times completely undermines their humanity.
JOE: I didn’t even think of that but, yes, absolutely. You know, I was so ready to be into this movie. It opens on the image of two members of the tribe — a child and what I presume is his father — who come into conflict with the construction team and, then, cut to titles. It’s a fantastic open. Sadly, this is the probably the film’s most poignant moment, save one or two other similar instances along the way. I know what Roth wanted to say (which is ostensibly the same thing that Ruggero Deodato wanted to say) but he can’t get there, he gets in his own way too much.
MAX: Yeah, it’s hard to sustain a social critique, or even just a good horror movie, when there’s so little follow-through. Most of the big moments are either undermined by the things we’ve thus far discussed or devolve into weak one-liners. I mean, to get back to the eaten alive thing, the worst thing about that is simple: just before it happens, Lars (Daryl Sabara) says “They’ve got the munchies!” He actually says that.
JOE: Ugh, even though I think I chuckled at that line, the comedy is probably the least effective aspect of the film. It’s a shame because I think that Cabin Fever is very funny and Hostel has its moments, although it’s where he started liberally mixing humor with horror in a way that I find distracting. The Green Inferno has no right being humorous, at least not in the ways it attempts to be.
MAX: Cabin Fever is very funny throughout and the Hostel films have strong spots of gallows humor (the last line of Hostel Part II is right on). “They’ve got the munchies” is something I would’ve laughed hard at if someone in the audience said it to me as an aside to break up the tension of a scene in which the eaten alive sequence was actually terrifying. But that’s the thing, The Green Inferno has so little sustained terror, or when it does, the characters are there to say something that reminds you it’s a movie. At times, the comedy comes up short because the terror is too strong, at others, the terror isn’t there because the comedy is too out front.
JOE: Do we even bother talking about the diarrhea scene? The masturbation?
MAX: “Here’s a chick shitting uncontrollably because she’s scared. Fuck you. Here’s a dude yanking it because he’s trying to stay calm in an intense situation. Fuck you. If you treat it as comedy, you’re missing the point, it’s about humans becoming animals. Fuck you. If you treat it as a comment on humans becoming animals, you need to get a sense of humor. Fuck you. Fack. You.” That’s all those scenes are saying.
The conversation continues here https://diaboliquemagazine.com/whats-eating-eli-roth-wrapping-up-conversation-on-the-green-inferno-part-three/