Last night's screening of The Green Inferno at Fantasia Fest started with a video from writer (with Guillermo Amoedo) and director Eli Roth, currently on location filming Knock, Knock. He told the crowd that he filmed The Green Inferno in the depths of the Amazon, where there was no electricity and no running water, and they had to conceptually explain to the villagers what a movie is. They showed those villagers, who guest star in memorable fashion in The Green Inferno, a film in order to demonstrate the concept. That film? Cannibal Holocaust.
Roth's love for Ruggero Deodato's classic is wholly evident in The Green Inferno - it's an unhinged, thunderous jungle ride of a movie, just elbow-deep in guts and carnage. It starts slow: we meet the idealistic Justine (Lorenza Izzo) at college in New York. Her father works for the United Nations, and Justine is the sort of young, white, privileged activist who thinks she's the one who can make a difference. She joins the university advocate group ACT just in time for their trip to the Peruvian Amazon to protest the bulldozering of hundreds of acres of forest home to native tribes. While the set-up is important, it's by far the weakest part of the film. This first act is poorly acted and oddly shot; The Green Inferno just feels off in its opening minutes.
None of that matters once the students reach the Amazon, when shit escalates with breathless speed. They chain themselves to the bulldozers and delay the deforestation; they celebrate on their tiny plane back to civilization as if they've effected real, lasting change. And then the engine on this tiny puddle-jumper blows, and we're treated to an astonishingly graphic plane crash that had our audience hooting with glee. It's a truly horrifying scene, and it's the least horrifying thing we'll see over the remainder of The Green Inferno. We lose half the kids in the crash, and before the surviving students can gather themselves and start making their way through the forest back to safety, they're beset by the very villagers they were trying to save, a vicious mob painted red, clamoring for the flesh of these idiot children who thought they were doing something good.
Once the kids are safely stowed in a bamboo cell in the middle of the village, we watch them get picked off one by one by the hungry natives. The first meal - made of the chubbiest, sweetest student, of course (Aaron Burns) - is the worst. His eyes and tongue are plucked from his skull and gobbled fresh, his skin is flayed and smoked and savored. It's a dreadful scene, and a magnificent one, one that reminds us that while Roth may not be able to make a conversation between two girls on a sidewalk in New York look natural, he is an outright genius at shooting gore.
And from there it's non-stop: suicide, diarrhea, virginal sacrifice, the playful wearing of one of the student's tattoos by kids in the village, one scene after the other, increasingly heinous and terrible and completely awesome. Izzo never sold me on her New York scenes, but once she's tearing through the rainforest, naked and covered in sacrificial markings, screaming herself hoarse - then, I was sold. And our real villain, Alejandro - not one of the villagers, but the "creepy and charismatic" leader of ACT who got all of these dummies into this mess in the first place and then does nothing to get them out of it - is played just right by Ariel Levy, a smug, hateful performance that had me balling my fist to get it punch-ready every time he was onscreen.
The Green Inferno never lets up: it barrels ahead, exuberant and relentless in its brutality, never giving the audience a second to unclench. It's a feast for gorehounds, one with an unsubtle message about the way that uninformed activism harms more than it helps. And it's a total fucking blast.