Justine (Lorenza Izzo) is a university student in New York City whose father (Richard Burgi) works at the United Nations and she is beginning to have her social conscience awaken. Although her roommate and best friend Kaycee (Sky Ferreira) is sceptical, Justine notes the activists who always have something to protest about and thanks to her attraction to their charismatic leader Alejandro (Ariel Levy) she is glad to receive a flyer from one of his lieutenants because that gives her all the excuse she needs to attend one of their meetings. It doesn't go too well, but she perseveres, and before she knows it she's involved with saving an Amazonian tribe...
Well, that's the idea, but soon she'll need saving from an Amazonian tribe in writer and director Eli Roth's tribute to the cannibal movies of his youth. He was on record as loving the more extreme side of the horror to emerge from the nineteen-seventies and eighties, these were his formative cinematic experiences and fed into the sort of work he would produce himself when he was able enough to pick up a camera, but he quickly found resistance. Either his detractors could not understand his fascination with what they regarded as unworthy trash, or they were big fans of unworthy trash and did not appreciate what Roth was concocting in their name, as if he were wide of the mark.
It’s true that nobody was going to mistake something like The Green Inferno for the disreputable cannibal flicks of yesteryear, and certainly not Roth's beloved Cannibal Holocaust (this was dedicated to that film's director Ruggero Deodato), one of the most controversial horror movies ever made thanks to its actual animal killings caught on celluloid. There was nothing like that here, in fact aside from a tarantula blown away by a pistol (and that was offscreen) there were no animals in peril here whatsoever, so you could observe we had moved on culturally, except that Roth and his co-screenwriter Guillermo Amoedo were apparently impatient with where that had led us to in the twenty-first century.
Roth talked a good talk, but the fact remained there were still activists around in 1980 when Cannibal Holocaust was made, and many of them objected to animal violence by humans, so it’s not as if Deodato was getting away with something thanks to a supposedly glorious non-P.C. wonderland of cinema. But there was a difference, and that was a self-awareness, and that consciousness was in every scene of The Green Inferno which failed to make any case other than demanding certain folks stop being right on. Were we now meant to stop caring about anything since the human race was capable of such atrocities against itself and nature then? Was any kind of social protest entirely a waste of time? Roth's tone was truly dismissive, and this adolescent mindset it didn't reflect well on him.
Fair enough, there are still people in middle age and older who roll their eyes any time "issues" are brought up, but there was something juvenile in putting what amounted to popular hate figures of the day the social justice warriors through gory torture and death for misreading the situation so badly. As far as that went, we were indicated to react as if their political hubris had brought this upon themselves for they knew nothing of how the world worked, but it made for a very bad tempered experience to watch, with relentless button-pushing to throw up talking points then immediately shooting any attempt at discussion down in flames. If you wanted a bloody shocker, you even had to wait almost half the movie for the cannibals to show up, something those grindhouse filmmakers would never have done, all so Roth could establish his straw man arguments: there aren't cannibals in the Amazon anymore anyway. True, Deodato added his own commentary to his work, but that was simply pretentious bullshit, and it was a shame to see the not untalented Roth take away the wrong things from the vintage trash he loved. Music by Manuel Riveiro on the noseflute.