Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Fantastic Fest 2013 Review: THE GREEN INFERNO - Javi and Jonesy's Take

Directed by: Eli Roth
Written by: Eli Roth, Guillermo Amodeo
Starring: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Aaron Morgan, Sky Ferreira, and Magda Apanowicz
Synopsis: When a bunch of privileged white people want to pretend to care about an indigenous tribe and try to save their rainforest home from being cut down, but their quest for activism ends up quickly backfiring.

Ed. note: For all new readers, Jonesy and I (Javi) will do a joint review/discussion where we both express our thoughts on the film, usually immediately after seeing it.

Jonesy: The GREEN INFERNO is the latest "horror" movie from Eli Roth. He wrote and directed this film, which is about some kids in a fancy-schmancy New York college who fly to South America in order to stop an evil corporation from bulldozing the rainforest where natives are in danger of being wiped out. The natives are the types you hear about in National Geographic, where they have never talked to anyone in modern civilization. Given what I know of Roth, my expectations were very low. It wasn't the worst thing I've ever seen, but I'm glad that I didn't have to pay money for it. I can understand why this could be a pick for a Fantastic Fest Secret Screening, but I would've been pissed to  have missed other great films for this.

Javi: I like Eli Roth in theory. He's a vegetarian, owns a pet piglet, which is awesome, I kind of dug the HOSTEL movies, and I didn't mind him in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. I say this because so many people hate him in that.

Jonesy:  What?! He was awesome in BASTERDS!

Javi: Ask @reeldistraction about it. He and other people hate his performance in that movie. So I didn't know when I would see this film, and I didn't read much about it beyond the fact that it's a throwback to old Italian cannibal movies. I guess that's a weird subgenre. I also felt that, due to the violence (and there's plenty of it), it might be a bit of a turn off for the people that think PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is scary, but then is too tame for the people that consider themselves horror purists.

Jonesy: It felt very amateur. The story, dialogue, and characters were all terrible. I didn't care if they died.

Javi: The first death was moving only because the person being killed was filling in for a very sympathetic role. Plus the death was also very extensive and gory. After that, all of the deaths felt like some after thought.

Jonesy: But it still felt very immature and full of cliches that horror movies have come to be ragged on for, like scary foreigners or predictable plot lines. Roth is supposed to be better than this.

Javi: I notice that in general, whenever there's a pacing issue in a movie, it's always in the middle third of it. It's not a hard and fast rule, but just something that I've taken notice of. THE GREEN INFERNO, on the other hand, had the problem of having a first third being too long and makes the movie feel uneven. It should have been cut down to a 15-20 minute sequence.

Jonesy: They needed to get to the jungle and the village a lot quicker. 

Javi: Exactly. He spends a lot of time setting up plot points or themes that are meant to pay off later on in the movie but then don't.

Jonesy: Well, they pay off in a horribly cheesy way. In the beginning, you see that Justine (Izzo) is taking some sort of World Studies class, and there were two things that are mentioned in that class that will very obviously show up later. Any type of use of foreshadowing seems like Lit 101, and it's very simplistic.

Javi: I also don't know what Eli Roth was trying to say with this movie. Our friend, John Gholson, and I were talking on the way out of the screening how there is always a certain amount of xenophobia in Eli Roth's movies. In CABIN FEVER, which I haven't seen, John mentioned there is the fear of strangers coming and invading the titular cabin. The HOSTEL movies are about American teenagers getting tortured abroad and speaks to the fear of foreigners in a post 9/11 world in the middle of the Iraq War when no one was that fond of us. Then with this movie, we have some of the most stereotypical, JOHNNY QUEST-style of characterization of a cannibalistic tribe.

Jonesy:  And in case you were confused, the tribe is always covered in red to make sure you don't forget they are cannibals.

Javi: I can't tell whether he wanted to make them out to be villains or rather just people with different customs. Apart from the main warrior man in black paint and bones sticking out of his nose and the main woman who appears to be the leader of the tribe, just like you said, they are all covered in red making them seem so much more faceless, nameless, and more villainous. There's a certain type of de-humanizing of these people.There's no subtitles either, so you can't understand their conversations, which makes the horror all that much worse, but once again, what is his point of these people? Roth shows them living out their lives in between cooking people alive. You think, "Oh that's nice, there's the old ladies having tribal gossip."

Jonesy: Something else that doesn't make sense is that they are a cannibalistic tribe, but who do they eat? Surely there's not a steady stream of foreigners wondering in the what do they do for sustenance. Do they eat each other? The first death felt more ritualistic instead of just eating the body for sustenance.

Javi: Very good points. Just like the tribe, the movie has a weird way of looking at activism. At least it seems that it's criticizing the "faux-tivism" (think those KONY2012 a-holes, or the ones that will change their profile pics on Facebook for the sake of "child abuse") that has arisen thanks to social media.

Jonesy: Maybe he doesn't like Twitter?

Javi: Oh no, he definitely likes Twitter. But he seems to be showing how even people that are trying to do good will use others and manipulate them in order to get what they want. It shows the peer pressure and the dark side of activism. Alejandro, the main activist guy, is super manipulative. In another movie, he would totally be a cult leader. But by the end, I'm not sure what Roth is trying to say about these groups. Is activism full people that are charlatans, or can activism can do some good as long as you are white and well connected?

Jonesy: At least in this story, the activists physically went somewhere instead of just saying that they'll change their Facebook profile pics to a cartoon character or some other nonsense. They literally bleed for their activism.

The tone of the movie is actually all over the place. That's why I said "horror" earlier. Just because a film has blood and guts doesn't mean that it's a horror movie. The music was strangely placed where it doesn't sound like it's the soundtrack for a horror movie but rather an adventure movie (props to @Briaaaaans for that point). And there's some strangely paced sequences in which they are running to some boats. The scene makes it seem like they're being chased or in danger, but they're not at all. It was one of the most odd scenes in the entire movie.

Javi: Oh yeah! It's at the very beginning. It makes no sense why they are rushing. Maybe the reason for that tone in the scene was to emphasize the xenophobia. There were lot of the Peruvians just going about their day to day lives, but the way that it's shot, you think that they're all going to kill and rape the activists. There's a guy that's just chilling and cutting up a coconut, but the way that the camera lingers on his machete is stupid. He's not a threat to them. So I guess all brown people are scary?

Jonesy: "They're different, so they're dangerous!" I thought that it was weird they mentioned that Peru is an extremely dangerous country. I've been there, and it's not. There's some militia issues, but it's not bad as they make it out to be. I wonder why that's such a recurring theme of his movies?

Javi: I don't know! I thought that he was at least second generation immigrant (ed. note, he's third generation. His grandparent immigrated from Eastern Europe) But I don't understand it either. At least at the time of the HOSTEL movies, there was the War on Terror abroad with the insurgents and the guerrilla warfare that was plaguing our troops at the time. That film was definitely a lot more political than I think most people realize. However, THE GREEN INFERNO is weird, and I don't understand the xenophobic tone.

Jonesy: This movie is just not good. There's so many cliches, and there were so many instances in which you could tell where the story was going. It was so predictable. It wasn't even a "fun" bad movie.

Javis: It's also not shot like a typical horror movie.

Jonesy:  It's a very confused.

Javi: I hate to do this, but interestingly enough, THE SACRAMENT by Ti West, which Roth produced, does a lot of the things that GREEN INFERNO was trying to do but much better. If you have a chance to see THE SACRAMENT and GREEN INFERNO, watch THE SACRAMENT.

Jonesy: Maybe he should stick around the producer role instead. But wait, didn't he discover the Soska Sisters? Nevermind. That's unforgivable.

No comments:

Post a Comment