Eli Roth has made a name for himself in the horror industry, though, it’s up for debate on how positive of a name he has made. His directorial debut Cabin Fever brought him into the fray as an up-and-comer, who, as Quentin Tarantino decreed, was “the future of horror,” and Quentin wasn’t too off. In the same way Stephen King wasn’t too off when he dubbed Clive Barker “the future of horror”. Barker didn’t end-up as a Wes Craven or a James Wan, but his contribution was appreciated. Eli Roth brought us Hostel next, which is hands-down his biggest film, having large-strides both on theaters and DVD sales. Some might argue Hostel acted as a precursor to Saw‘s success. Whether it’s torture-porn or not isn’t really what I want to talk about. I will say that – personally, I enjoyed Hostel: Part II most out of all his films.
2015 is an important year for Eli Roth and/or a productive one! The release of Knock Knock and The Green Inferno have happened inside a small time-period. Granted, Inferno‘s been a canned-good since 2013, but it isn’t until recently that it has been made available to the public. Will either of these films silence Roth‘s critics? Perhaps.
Starring Keanu Reeves, as well as Lorenza Izzo (who we’ll meet again in Green Inferno) and Ana de Armas, this one doesn’t look anything like what we’ve seen from Eli Roth. Or, well, at least in the violence-department, because this film doesn’t even have a drop of blood. The film does, however, offer-up the same sexually-fueled mayhem we’d seen in his other film Hostel. But this film’s more about psychology, and about morality, and all that good stuff. I’ll be honest – I was excited for this one!
A home-invasion film from Eli Roth with Keanu Reeves? (who had been in my good graces ever since John Wick hit) Sign me up, I say!
In the film, Keanu Reeves plays a happily married man. A good guy. If you’d look up “Good Guy” in the dictionary, you’d see him. But when his family’s out-of-town and two mysterious, and attractive, women come knocking on his door, his ethics are sent into disarray. Their overbearing ways become too much for him to handle and he succumbs to them. He cheats on his wife. That’s all well and good, or, well, … not good, but it takes a nastier turn when those girls refuse to leave.
This film sounded downright interesting, but this home-invasion film isn’t Funny Games, not one bit, and in-fact, it fails on almost all fronts.
Keanu Reeves is a capable actor. I think. Maybe. I don’t know. But he isn’t in this film. In-fact, his acting is laughably bad and over-the-top. Somebody else I know made a comparison to a Nicholas Cage sort-of zaniness in Reeves’ performance, and that sounds about right. The issue is that it isn’t portrayed as a comedy nor is it meant to be funny, and thereby, intentional or not, he comes off bad. The final scenes are the most excruciating, when things are supposed to mean something and they mean absolutely nothing at all. Lorenza and Ana both have chemistry as a duo, but they aren’t enough to carry it all nor are they given enough to.
A lot of the issue is the film itself. The storytelling. The theme. The film is ambitious, and that’s admirable. It asks questions. But it all seems disproportionate, or like each side is pulling a different direction. Nobody gets what they deserve in this film. But it is presented as if they do. There is no closure and that hurts the film in the long-run. It feels hollow and empty.
That, and the home-invasion aspect has nothing new to it. It might entertain or it might give you second-hand discomfort, but not likely, or at least, not for me. Everything that happens in this film has happened before and has happened better, and this leaves the cast to elevate the film, – they do not.
Knock Knock had the frameworks of a satirical approach to a repetitiously pursued genre, but it endeavors to crumble beneath itself by succumbing to campy performances and a paper-thin narrative that doesn’t have enough to carry the film.
The Green Inferno is more like what you’d expect from Eli Roth. The film borrows inspiration off older Italian exploitation films like Cannibal Holocaust and is much more of the slice-and-dice stuff that got Roth into the Splat Pack. The idea of the film, more or less, is to illustrate how different other cultures can be and how little we know of them. The film plays off the unknown of foreign-land in the same way as Hostel, but in a very different sort-of way. I can’t say I was much excited for this one. Cannibal Holocaust was an example of a film that wasn’t very good, but received accolades and positive reception on-account of beating everybody else to it. But in this day in age, that isn’t the case. In this day in age, you have films about sewing people’s mouths onto other people’s asses and Serbian Films that take it to all-new extremes. The fact is, Cannibal Holocaust wouldn’t work in today’s age because it was all shock-value and nothing much else to it besides some vaguely veiled undertones that take a backseat. That’s why I didn’t want to see this film. Because if Eli Roth is using that film as a template, I figured he’d officially swap the narratives he had with Hostel and go full-system torture porn with it. (I hate that term by the way.)
Luckily though, the film isn’t really all about that. The first forty-minutes of the film don’t have a single-drop of blood, and although the final act is a gory macabre, it never really goes head-over-heels with it. The film follows lead-girl played by Lorenza Izzo and her college classmates as they embark on an effort to save part of the Amazon Rainforest. Inferno’s quick with the quips and while it’s never the social-commentary it might have suggested, it’s definitely trying to make a statement. Maybe it’s still about the unknown, or maybe it’s about our attempts to save something we really know nothing about, whatever the reason, I can at least say that there’s an ambition. The film takes a decisive turn when a Tribe takes their little social activism group and begins trying to eat them. They do not like that. And that’s the basic premise of The Green Inferno.
The Acting of this film is flawed. Like I said in my earlier review of Knock Knock, the characters have trouble carrying the severity of the situation. For example, in a scene that should be particularly traumatic, the lead protagonist and friend seem unscathed. In-fact, throughout the whole dilemma, I feel like the cast never made me appreciate what I was witnessing on the screen. The make-up and cinematography was all done in such a way that should have meant more than it did. The Tribe looked intimidating and yet, not unbelievable, and the camera-work itself oftentimes voiced the calamity in such a way that should have been emphasized by the cast-members. I will say they did a good job depicting the Tribe. Something in-particular I like that was captured is they made them feel like real people from a real culture that is simply very, very lost on us. They were shown having discussions and singing, and acting normal at times, and it’s always disturbing to associate yourself with something so vicious and cruel.
Some reviewers criticized the storyline and the film’s ambitious undertones. Truth be told, I didn’t mind any of that. For what it is, of course, it makes sense and is logical. A group trying to save the Rainforest comes across a Tribe that thinks they’re to destroy their home and thereby is pissed at them. That all seems awfully basic and believable to me. And for what it is, whether I agree with it or not, the film offers up a legitimate perspective on these things. The only issue I have with it is its lack of subtlety in a film that should have been more down-to-earth and less over-the-top.
This brings me to my biggest criticism – Eli Roth is not a very mature director. Knock Knock is an example of this, and The Green Inferno is as well. The film’s telling a very serious and barbaric storyline held with an understanding of itself. Yet, the film had masturbation, a fart scene, and a bunch of other things that it didn’t need. Some might try and justify them as comedic relief, but I don’t think an other-wise serious film about cannibalism needs comedic relief. Instead, I think something like this would’ve meant more had it been played straight. Instead of feeling immersed, I found myself taken out of it over and over again by scenes that didn’t need to happen.
The Green Inferno brings more of Eli Roth’s ambition, but with Eli Roth’s work also is a lot of baggage that weighs himself too far down to ever reach the heights of his potential. The Green Inferno is a halfway decent film, with glimmers of hope, terrific make-up, and all the best stones left unturned.