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.
[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD]
JOE: We’ve talked a lot about what The Green Inferno does wrong. Maybe we are hard on it because we expect so much more from Roth. He knows this genre, he should be able to nail it. The film doesn’t get everything wrong, though.
MAX: Roth not only knows the genre in the encyclopedic sense, but listening to him talk and watching his films will show that he knows what makes the best horror films work as well. For me, there are two haunting moments in the film: the sequence in which Justine is trembling in fear as she’s held at gunpoint, and the sequence in which the activists are being ‘welcomed’ by the cannibal tribe, who stroke them and shout strange, indecipherable words at them as they scream in terror.
JOE: Izzo does a fantastic job in the back half too. She can really handle the terror-filled moments. I do agree the film works well when it’s ramping up that claustrophobic tension, trapped inside of a sea of extended arms and pawing at the activists.
MAX: Yeah, and it captures this sense of disorientation and loss of control that, whether you’re a racist and xenophobe or the most progressive person on the planet, would be a very real thing in a situation like that.
JOE: The choice to bring on Greg Nicotero seemed brilliant. Nicotero’s special effects work, here, is probably the film’s strongest aspect. It actually had me craving more of a gory, exploitation film than Roth ever had the intention of making. I’m not gorehound but, when done right, gore is a great addition. I wish there was more. The first cannibal scene is Roth working on all cylinders but he can’t keep that up the entire run length.
MAX: I was craving a gorefest from the outset, and expected the film to deliver on that level. That first cannibal scene is pretty full-on but for Roth, whose ingenuity lies partly in his penchant for the ‘inventive kill,’ this film only goes halfway. The FX work is as strong as any of Nicotero’s but is criminally underused.
JOE: It may have been too repetitive if it just was kill after kill. Perhaps if Roth didn’t do the Hostel thing here, by having them spend so much time before getting to the tribe, there would have been more room. There’s a good deal about the development that leaves a lot to be desired. The idea, I suppose, is that it sets up the characters and allows the audience to begin to identify with them. This is only partially effective and, to be frank, it’s not needed. We are probably better off not identifying with them. Cutting the 45 minute lead-in to a solid 15-20 mins could have gone a long way.
MAX: Not sure whether or not we’re better off identifying with the activists, or even the cannibals for that matter. I don’t know if the film does enough with that idea to allow us to consider those possibilities, so I’m a bit undecided there. It didn’t need to be kill after kill in slasher or Hostel fashion, but the moments of violence could’ve been more visceral with more emphasis on flesh, bone, and a squishy, crunchy sound mix. Too much dart-blowing and not enough blood-flowing, or gore-showing.
JOE: That’s his concession, right? He doesn’t give in to complete exploitation. It’s another instance where the film gets in its own way.
MAX: True, although I’m still confused on what the film’s “way” is. It feels something like ‘Cannibals and deforestation by Westerners are both screwy in their own way, but one thing’s for sure: both can agree that activists are the worst.’ I think that idea takes precedence over the gore, the politics, the horror, or anything for that matter.
…And the flesh-eating could’ve been grosser. What if, say, a cannibal decided to take a crap and found an eyeball inside? As I’m thinking about it now, in an admittedly sick way, if one of the FX was the actual diarrhea and we saw it, the grimy exploitation factor might’ve ramped up. It would’ve felt dirty, animalistic, inhuman, all of the things the film wants to be. Instead I was sickened in a bad way by how the camera was seeming to laugh at the poor girl as it happened.
JOE: Million dollar questions: would you recommend that people see the film and would you see it again?
MAX: I would not recommend that the casual ticket-buyer go see it in theaters. To them, I’d say wait to stream it or catch it on video if you’re going to see it regardless. I would urge hardcore horror fans, or those who simply wish to see where they weigh in on the conversation, to see it. (Though I won’t fault you if you decide to wait till streaming or video). I’d see it again, so it’s doing something right.
JOE: I think, had you asked me right after walking out of the theater, I would have told you I would never watch it again. It’s not that it disgusted or offended me, far from it actually. But, it has stuck with me and I am thinking about it still, so it did something right I suppose. I feel that I will revisit later, but I do not think I could recommend it as a must-see. If you are already interested, however, give it a shot but go in with expectations low.
MAX: That’s one for the poster!