Cannibal cinema requires a taste for the tasteless, and Eli Roth’s THE GREEN INFERNO (2013) is no different. His take on the cannibal horror sub-genre is an exercise in nihilistic brutality intended only for the most hardcore fans. However, like most cannibal films, the story behind the making of this film is incredible. While THE GREEN INFERNO should only be recommended to gore fanatics, the Scream Factory Blu-ray is worth being checked out by anyone interested in the magic of making movies.
THE GREEN INFERNO is Roth’s take on the Italian cannibal exploitation films of the 1970s and ‘80s. It focuses on a group of American activists who try to stop deforestation in the Amazon by chaining themselves to trees. Their plane crashes and they are captured by hungry cannibals. From there it’s an orchestra of death and brutality as the activists are tortured and killed one by one.
Roth was directly inspired by Ruggero Deodato’s CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and Umberto Lenzi’s CANNIBAL FEROX, and fans of the genre are likely to be thrilled with his dedication to practical special effects. Roth also went to lengths to shoot on-location in the jungles of Peru and Chile–THE GREEN INFERNO was shot further up the Amazon than any other film.
“We should have made a movie about making the movie,” Kirby Bliss Blanton, who plays activist Amy, says during one of the new interviews on the Blu.
She’s not wrong. There are several hours of extras here, and it’s all as entertaining as it is fascinating. The cast and crew all have stories to tell, and the behind-the-scenes footage is impressive. There’s documentation of almost all the practical effects from multiple angles, videos of the cast playing with the village kids, and quite a bit of the cast and crew having fun despite their somewhat terrifying surroundings. The camaraderie among the cast, crew, and villagers is heartwarming. Everyone washed the blood and makeup off in the river together after shooting, then they would all eat together. This camaraderie led to a lot of trust between the actors and villagers, allowing them to be rougher and perform better in their horrific scenes.
The new making-of featurette, “Going into the Inferno”, features Roth explaining the full story behind THE GREEN INFERNO, from conception to distribution. He clearly knows his stuff when discussing the cannibal genre, though he didn’t become a fan until much later in life. He retells the development of the movie with his trademark dark humor, but a lot of it is genuinely funny. Roth explains at one point that screenwriter friend Diablo Cody had to convince him to make the movie after he pitched it to her as “a movie about stoned cannibals getting the munchies.”
If that sounds weird, the on-set stories are even crazier. A sequence involving the cannibal kids torturing the activists with baby pythons was the kids’ idea, and those are real baby pythons. The villagers tried to give one of the producers a baby as a going away present. The most expensive shot in the entire film–one they knew they could only do once or twice–didn’t get recorded because the cameraman forgot to push “record”. There were drug-inspired makeup department drag shows.
There’s also quite a bit of footage of how they filmed the plane crash sequence using a plane that they built on a rotating spindle–when Jonah (Aaron Burns) throws up during that sequence, it’s because Burns threw up for real. The plane rig is something that must be seen to be believed, like much of the behind-the-scenes craziness on display in these featurettes. Most of the extra footage is surprisingly high quality, with a great deal of it in hi-def.
In addition to the interviews with Roth, there are new interviews with actors Blanton, Daryl Sabara, and Lorenza Izzo in the featurette “Uncivilized Behavior: Method Acting in THE GREEN INFERNO”. The cast gets their chance to share their sides of Roth’s stories, often with just as much humor. The audio commentary with Roth, producer Nicolás López, Izzo, Sabara, Blanton, and Burns reflects this same camaraderie between cast and crew.
The two-disc set also includes a CD of the excellent original score by Manuel Riveiro, with bonus tracks not included in the film. Riveiro’s score utilizes traditional orchestral arrangements along with instruments that might be used by natives of the rainforests. Strings and horns are layered with wooden flutes and resonant drums to create a score that is both powerful and haunting.
As far as THE GREEN INFERNO itself? The Blu-ray transfer is beautiful and crisp–the film had to be shot digitally because of the jungle heat but it looks great. All the technical aspects are done beautifully, as one expects from a Scream Factory release. It’s unfortunately still a deeply nihilistic film that derives its only entertainment from the gruesome deaths depicted in their full gory glory. There are attempts at political statements, including Roth’s personal vendetta against “reactivism”, but most of it gets lost in the blood and mud.
THE GREEN INFERNO is a by-the-books cannibal exploitation film that doesn’t bring anything new or surprising to the genre, but the detailed making-of featurettes are entertaining and educational. What horror fan can’t appreciate that?
THE GREEN INFERNO Collector’s Edition Blu-ray is now available from Scream Factory.