The Green Inferno is a pretty standard horror film based on the fear of the unknown, in this case undiscovered tribes in the South American jungle. As you would expect from this genre of film it is stuffed full of one dimensional characters, cheesy dialogue, terrible acting, outrageous racial stereotypes and over the top gore and violence.
The first 25 minutes of this film are so astoundingly dull and full of cheesy dialogue, rubbish acting and stereotypical characters that several times I wondered whether it would be more interesting to turn it off and go and watch the paint dry on the walls I was taking a break from painting.
After about 30 minutes of pointless and annoying build up, the action moves from North to South America and we get 10 minutes or so of annoying characters rushing around like stereotypical American tourists and being woefully unprepared for being in any country that is even marginally different from the good old US of A. This is odd given that a number of the characters aren’t even American.
After the touristy bit, things get serious as the group arrive with unbelievable simplicity at the site of some illegal destruction of the rainforest. Suddenly all these inept youths are a well oiled machine, slipping unnoticed into enemy territory and coordinating their protest like old pros.
The action that all honest people will admit they are after from this kind of film doesn’t really start until 40 minutes in and to be honest it would not diminish your enjoyment or understanding if you just fast forwarded the first 30-40 minutes.
I would have liked for the characters to be a bit more competent at living in the jungle, especially as they are all out there on a mission to trek through the jungle to find illegal destruction and protest it. If they had been more prepared and competent then it would be more shocking when things actually start to go wrong for them. But when you start with people who don’t know about bug repellent and go into a blind panic every time they see a spider anything really horrible that happens to them seems to lose its impact somehow. Pretty much the strongest reaction that the characters have to any of the horrible things that happen is when one of the group gets sick and has to take a crap while they are all stuck in a cage together, it is one of the few times when I actually believed that the characters were genuinely reacting to something horrible happening to them.
The terrible acting doesn’t help to build a sense of tension or fear either. In the first encounter with murderous tribes (spoilers) everyone behaves as if something mildly odd is happening rather than reacting as if they have just seen a number of their friends murdered. While it is nice to not have the usual frantic over acting and hysteria that often plagues these films, this under acting just makes scenes like this laughable.
Apparently when the real-life tribe who play villagers in the film were shown Cannibal Holocaust to give them an idea of what the film will be like, they thought that it was a comedy film so maybe that is why some of these scenes make you laugh rather than wince or hide behind the sofa. The calm and matter of fact way that the villagers prepare people to be eaten is a nice contrast to the savage violence of the rest of the film though.
To talk about plot for a moment, and there isn’t a whole lot of it; Justine is a privileged (daddy is a big shot lawyer) college student in America and she is in love with cute activist Alejandro. We aren’t sure exactly why she is in love with him because they have never met, perhaps she just likes his manly beard and the fact that he plays the guitar and stands up for the little guy. After they finally meet and he is incredibly rude to her she decides that the best way to show him that he is wrong is to change herself into exactly what he expects her to be.
In order to get his attention and hopefully steal him away from his bitchy girlfriend, Justine goes along on a woefully badly planned protest trip to south America with Alejandro and his group of naive and unprepared followers. Alejandro for his part is quite happy to use and endanger his followers to further his cause of saving the rain forest.
Given that the film takes so long to get to the stage where bad things start happening to characters you might think that we have had time to get to know and like the characters, making the impact of their fate more significant. However, all you really have is a broad stereotype and a name (and to be honest I didn’t even catch the names of more than 3 or 4 characters).
Some interesting relationship dynamics start to develop between some of the characters but are never really explored. Nothing really starts to develop until people start dying at a prodigious rate so this could be a deliberate attempt to get the audience to identify with the otherwise one-dimensional characters. Since the main action is in a relatively short period and there are a lot of characters to kill off (more spoilers) it becomes a procession of gruesome deaths of people you just don’t care about and judging from the reactions neither do the surviving characters in most cases.
The death and violence is quite well done, and to be fair is the main point of an exploitation film like this, and you won’t be disappointed if this is what you are watching this film for. To be honest I can’t really think of any other reason to watch it. The effects are really well done and quite believable but the scenes are often so over the top and reactions of characters so unbelievable that you are left with a jarring mix of realism and absurdity. To be fair, the acting from the main cast becomes a lot more believable as the film progresses and the reactions to events become more believable, it is a shame that that level of acting couldn’t be maintained for more than a few scenes.
The ending is a bit muddled with some inexplicable actions by the villagers allowing the inevitable escape followed by some strange hallucinations/dream sequences and a bit that implies that it might all have been a dream and an odd bit that hints at the possibility of a sequel. So in addition to skipping the first half hour it might also be best to turn off once the chopper arrives at the end too.