Eli Roth has had an interesting career. He’s mostly stayed in the horror realm with his writing, producing, and directing, at least up until 2017, and even many of his acting roles have been in horror films. But his horror films are sometimes reviled for dabbling in some particularly nasty subjects, such as torture and gore in the Hostel series. Keeping his provocative films in mind, Roth further upped the ante by hitting on another taboo subgenre: 1970s and ’80s Italian cannibal exploitation films.
That’s right, The Green Inferno is a throwback to a run of films that managed to earn their place on Britain’s Video Nasty list, kickstarted found footage cinema, often contained some level of animal cruelty, and even spread across a variety of exploitation subgenres, including sexploitation with Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals. Yeah, we’ve found a way to connect to the Emanuelle series. That’s some good crossover exploitation, folks. Hell, the very idea of most cannibalism movies is exploitative: Westerners, be they European or American, come across some uncontacted tribe and are then generally raped, murdered, and eaten, sometimes in that order.
While the genre was largely swept under the rug after the release of Natura contro by Antonio Climati, it did see a little attention from classic exploitation director Bruno Mattei in the mid-2000s. Other than that, there was nothing. Nothing at all until Eli Roth decided to celebrate the genre in a big way. And for that, we should thank him.
The Green Inferno follows Justine, a college freshman and daughter of a United Nations attorney, who joins up with some social activists to stop a logging company in Peru. They stop the company, but a plane crash leaves them stranded and wounded. Then the cannibals show up. Expect some nasty gore. Don’t expect there to be many survivors.
This movie has quite a bit: suicide, torture, the expected cannibalism, vomit, humiliation, defecation, murder, and comes very close to female genital mutilation. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a particularly nasty practice that’ll make even guys cringe, and we don’t have those parts. The film also spells it out early on and tells just how widespread of a practice it is, so prepare to cringe even harder.
Now right now if you’re thinking, “There is nothing redeeming about this movie,” then you should probably be questioning why you’ve read this much of my thoughts on anything, because I’m about to declare what this movie is about. Folks being eaten, yes, but it’s also the ultimate movie about exploitation. Justine gets exploited by Alejandro, who runs the social activist group, to play up their cause of stopping the deforestation by very nearly getting her shot. He also exploits the group itself by getting them to perform the protest in the first place, since he’s working for a rival construction company. Hell, he pretty much continues exploiting the survivors to try and increase his chances with the tribe. There is a subconscious message here about uninformed activism being more harmful then helpful, and that’s just on the side of the Westerners. The tribe also shows they’re more than happy to commit female genital mutilation, which is about as exploitative as you can get of women. And then there is the concept of the movie, which caused people to worry that Eli Roth was exploiting an Amazonian tribe for the purpose of making them look bad in a movie.
He didn’t, by the way. He fully explained to them what they were doing, and they found the idea hilarious. Turns out cannibal movies are comedies in some places. Take that, England, you bunch of anti-cannibal prudes. Roth also pointed out that his film wasn’t nearly as detrimental to the health of indigenous peoples as corporations destroying their villages and surrounding landscapes, which is very true. But hey, the Video Nasties were already proof its easier to blame aspects of media than fix the real problems they showcase, so are any of us really surprised?
Look, this is a movie where people get butchered, severed, broken, and killed. Not dead, killed. Badly. Nearly everyone dies. There’s also a crazy shot of a guy puking all over himself during the plane crash, though the puke vanishes once they’re on the ground, which bothered me surprisingly more than I expected. Where did the vanishing puke go, Roth?
Seriously, I’m really bothered about that puke.