Cannibal movies are not for everyone. Something about them can make even a few of the most ardent horror fans turn away in disgust. I confess to being in that camp, although Eli Roth's The Green Inferno is an exception. Vastly underrated during its theatrical release, this intentionally brutal little film is redeemed by being exceptionally well-made. Scream Factory brings it to Blu-ray in a magnificent Collector's Edition on June 25.
Lorenza Izzo appealingly plays Justine, a college freshman who, as many college freshmen do, develops an interest in activism. She treks to the Amazon rainforest with a group of like-minded individuals to protest its destruction by a logging company. On the way back, their plane crashes in the jungle. Justine and friends are then captured by a tribe of cannibals. One of the gang immediately has his tongue cut out. Things go downhill from there, if you can believe it.
The Green Inferno was filmed in the South American jungle, in an actual village, with the (peaceful) residents of that village portraying most of the cannibals. To say that the movie has a sense of authenticity would be an understatement. Roth clearly went to great lengths to plunge his audience into this story, to make the danger seem real. The fact that the actors are visibly not on a set or a “normal” location adds immeasurably to the impact.
A lot of sick, twisted stuff happens over the course of 100 minutes. The cast, which also includes Spy Kids star Daryl Sabara, is effective. Some of the characters are meant to be sympathetic, others less so. Either way, we feel queasy when something awful happens to them. Call them naive, idealistic, or even selfish – no matter what, they're young people trying to save the planet who fall into an unfathomable situation. You can't help but ask yourself what you'd do in their shoes.
Roth keeps the pace tight and stages the shock sequences effectively. At the same time, he only gets as graphic as he needs to in order to be scary. The Green Inferno can be difficult to watch, yet it never crosses the line to become outright revolting, as some of the pictures that influenced it did. Not everyone will be able to take the film's intensity. Those who can will find a nerve-rattling, hard-to-shake-off cannibal chiller.
Scream Factory's collector's edition Blu-ray is loaded with extras, including a CD of Manuel Riveiro's musical score with bonus tracks. There's additionally a full-length audio commentary with Roth, producer Nicolás López, and cast members Lorenza Izzo, Aaron Burns, Kirby Bliss Blanton, and Daryl Sabara.
“Into the Inferno” is a 50-minute interview with Roth, and it's a must-watch. The director tells one fascinating story after another about the production, from how his team had to show the tribe members a movie before shooting began because they didn't know what one was, to how the crew bumped up against a bunch of angry Christian missionaries, to how a portion of the completed footage was briefly lost. Several near-death experiences are also part of his account. Roth relates these anecdotes in an engaging fashion.
“Uncivilized Behavior” runs 35 minutes and offers Sabara, Burns, and Blanton reminiscing about their time working in a remote section of the world, They, too, have plenty of amusing tales.
An hour of never-before-seen production footage is up next. It gives you a sense of the challenges and rewards that came from this ambitious undertaking. Original publicity materials for The Green Inferno are here, too, as are the theatrical trailer, TV spots, and multiple still galleries.
For more information on this and other Scream Factory titles, please visit their official website.
Movie: out of four
The Green Inferno is rated R for aberrant violence and torture, grisly disturbing images, brief graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.