★☆☆☆☆It seems hard to believe that The Green Inferno is the first big screen directorial outing from Eli Roth since his 2007 sequel to Hostel, largely because he's turned himself into something of a one-man industry and brand, producing numerous genre features and godfathering several first-time projects from fledgling filmmakers. He certainly hasn't idled his time away but all this extracurricular activity is solid proof that he should have factored in some time to actually develop his own skills as a director. Receiving a particularly prolonged release date over here (and more than enough time for Roth to distribute his follow-up, Knock, Knock) it isn't hard to see why that was the case upon seeing this lazy, amateurish effort.
What should be a gruelling exercise in horror is a turgid, poorly-acted and feeble excuse to show on-screen mutilations and dismemberment. This may check off that sick bag tick-box for ardent gorehounds, but even their goodwill will be severely stretched here. The clumsy handling of the material is evident during the film's plodding preamble, where the introduction to the heroine Justine (played by Roth's wife, Lorenza Izzo) in her college campus has all the weight and depth of a substandard US teen network show. In a misplaced response to the social injustices being thrust in her face by picketing students, Justine falls under the spell of campaigner Alejandro (Ariel Levy) who is planning a trip to deepest Peru with the hopeful aims of sabotaging the development of an endangered strip of rainforest.
Initially succeeding in their mission (using a ridiculous digital age variation on 'the pen is mightier than the sword'), the group of student activists are forced to fight for survival when their plane crash-lands in thick, uncharted terrain and they find themselves as hors d'oeuvres for the hungry locals. Roth has alluded to the film being a homage to the 80s cannibal features which gained notoriety over here as part of the 'video nasty' witch-hunt, but it's all such an ill-conceived mess that it makes you wonder just how reverential he's being towards his genre forefathers. The director's attempts at geopolitical relevancy fits awkwardly with the rest of the material, particularly when the wholly unwelcome frat boy humour rears its ugly head during the second half, essentially stripping the film of any remaining suspense and merit.
Characters make the kind of stupid, deeply illogical decisions aimed squarely at getting the writers to their next tiresome gag, and the mostly below-par performances (the appealing Izzo being the sole exception) struggle to sell the nightmarish scenario. There's a slight glimpse of how things could have gone in a jet-black humorous interpretation of the traditional 'group picnic', but this is a huge waste of the indigenous tribe cast specifically for the film. Roth's next directing gig is a mega-budgeted killer shark picture but there's nothing in The Green Inferno that suggests he's up for the challenge, or even possesses the storytelling and technical ability to make that leap.
Adam Lowes | @adlow76