Event Coverage - AFI Fest

Event Coverage - AFI Fest Presents: Eli Roth's 'The Green Inferno'

In the fall of 2013,  I attended the AFI Fest's midnight screening of Eli Roth's 'The Green Inferno' at Mann's Chinese Theaters in Hollywood, CA. If I am being honest, I cannot remember the last time that I was that excited for a film to be released. Since around 2006, with the release of Hostel II, I have been a massive fan of Mr. Roth's work. It actually started when I met him at a small restaurant called Puran's in Los Angeles. I immediately recognized him when he sat down. He was extremely polite when I asked where he got ideas for his movies. His response was only two words, but to me it sums up who Eli Roth is as a filmmaker:  succinct, intelligent, tongue-in-cheek, and hilarious. He said, "Home Depot". So it was a pleasure to get to see him introduce this film. It only takes a few minutes in his presence to feel his overwhelming exuberance for making movies, and his love of the horror genre altogether. It is infectious. In his introduction, Mr. Roth made mention of some of the cannibal films of the late 70's, early 80's, that his film pays homage to. As someone who has seen several of those films, which are particularly sick and depraved, and as fan of Eli's other films, I expected this to be pretty dark and demented. And it was, in the best way possible.

I really don't want to give away the plot of the movie, so the following plot summary is SPOILER FREE: 

Justine (Lorenza Izzo) is a college freshman who, after learning about female genital mutilation in third world countries in one of her classes, decides to try and get involved. She joins a group of fellow activists who are heading into the amazon to protest the military deforestation of the jungle: as it is home to many tribes of native people. But on their way home after a successful protest, their plane crash lands into the jungle, and they are taken captive by the very natives they were trying to protect.

And that is all I will say about it, because much of the joy in watching it, is that it constantly surprises you. And that is due to the brilliance of the filmmaker. Because in Eli Roth's homage to the cannibal genre, he not only sends up the originals by creating a film that is simultaneously disturbing and hilarious, but he also manages to ask the same question posed by his predecessors: "Who are the real savages?"

But it wasn't just an amazing director at work that made this film so enjoyable. In addition to a solid script, was an equally amazing cast of relative fresh-faces, who worked relentlessly to bring every nuance of this story to life. The action of the film felt realistic and that was largely due to the actors harrowing portrayals of the characters. There were several familiar faces for fans of the movie 'Aftershock,' including: Ariel Levy as the charismatic leader of the student activists, Nicolas Martinez as Daniel, and the stunning and skillful Lorenza Izzo, as the young and impressionable Justine. Izzo handles the leading role with confidence and poise, conveying the journey through hell convincingly, but has help from some amazing supporting players. Magda Apanowicz was strong as Samantha, Daryl Sabara was hilarious as Nick, and Kirby Bliss nearly stole the movie as Amy, who commanded the audience's attention in every scene. As good as this film was, it couldn't have achieved greatness without this stellar cast. 

Partially inspired by the 'slacktivism' brought about by the birth of social media, and stories like the Kony 2012 campaign, this film skewers millennials with a scathing bravado. Uninformed and ignorant of the very cultures that they purport to be rescuing, these half hearted do-gooders jump into action, unaware of how to affect any real change. Mr. Roth begs the question, "Shouldn't we have a better understanding of the world around us before we decide to try and change it?"

Like many of the other exploitation films in this genre, some critics will cite this movie as being racist - painting all native people out to be savages. But I would argue, like Cannibal Holocaust, that this movie does exactly the opposite. Especially when certain revelations from the activists leader calls into question the real motives for the movement.

If you are a fan of Eli Roth's other films and/or the movie Aftershock, than  this movie is probably for you. It has something for everyone. I suggest, as Eli Roth did to the audience in his introduction to the film that "whatever you might imagine this movie to be… all I would ask is that for the next ninety minutes you clear your mind… and just let the story take you... you'll get a lot more out of it." I couldn't agree more. This movie is ridiculously fun. Go see it, you'll have a great time finding out the answer to the question: "What happens when cannibals get the munchies?"

Grade B+.

- Leo Francis

The Children of Samhain