The Green Inferno

Is there a case to be made for making an Indigenous cannibal movie today? Probably not, but tell that to Eli Roth, whose The Green Inferno is a modern day tribute to one of the ugliest and least redeemable subgenres in the horror pantheon, the Italian cannibal movie.

Roth infuses Green Inferno with scenes of extreme brutality and there are several bone fide frights to be had, that’s for certain. However without the critical distance + time required to “enjoy” for lack of a better phrase, its Italian forebears, it’s difficult to remain critically dispassionate about this kind of genre revisit. There will always be that nagging “why?”

Regardless of what you think about their nasty depictions of First Peoples, there’s no excuse for those sicko Italian films that often depicted (and frequently encouraged/facilitated) extreme animal cruelty, such as the gutted gator in The Man From the Deep River or the real (and very fresh) turtle repast in Cannibal Holocaust.

Thankfully, Roth dispenses with such icky excesses to focus on a bunch of woke New Yorkers keen on saving a lost Peruvian tribe, whose traditional lands are about to become condos — rather than the usual cadre of (occasionally) trained anthropologists who offer howler pronouncements like “The natives…are cruel, superstitious and unwilling to accept any form of civilization” (see, Dr. Butcher MD). Making community organizers rather than interloping academics the vics here is a dynamite conceit, and if Roth were twice as talented a filmmaker/writer, the idea and efficacy of do-gooder foreign interventions would’ve been more adroitly addressed.

Lorenza Izzo is great as the lead, the daughter of a square-jawed US diplomat. And he is powerless to assist despite his stature and connections (an idea that’s barely developed here to warrant this being called true social satire) and Ariel Levy is fun as the messianic activist, Alejandro.

Once the activists have their boots on the ground (their journey is quite harrowing) they find that provoking the ire of trained militia men by chaining themselves to bulldozers and trees, and the lack of decent bathrooms, are the least of their problems

Soon the erstwhile saviors find out they’re on the menu (talk about an international incident) when they come face to face with the natives.

*** (out of 5)

Beneath

Not to be confused with What Lies Beneath, the Zemeckis-directed supernatural horror starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer, Beneath is a killer catfish movie (which also explores what lies beneath, or as the tagline says the terror that “lies just below the surface.”) But is it a killer, comma, catfish movie?

Who knows? It’s not exactly a large pool to draw from. Catfish is pretty sui generis stuff.

A bunch of high school seniors gather for one last blowout before college, as surefire a way to bring about their sudden demise as a cop with 2 weeks to go before his retirement contemplating a seaside vacation before he’s filled full of lead.

Despite warnings from a crotchedy old man (Mark Margolis, the human IED from Breaking Bad, spoiler alert) the teens in Beneath venture forth, as this is a horror movie and to do otherwise would bring the proceedings to a grinding halt. Soon, the catfish, a creature unbeatable when paired with paprikash and dill and served straight out of the Danube in Budapest, begins to fairly convincingly terrorize the boaters, one member of whom receives a fatal bite.

Director Larry Fessenden (Wendigo) keeps things chugging along and as the vessel begins to take on water, the surviving crew members (including bickering siblings) resort to justifying why they should not be sacrificed to the beast and thrown overboard to save the greater good. That differentiates it somewhat from its natural horror brethren.

Fessenden has said that boogey men don’t have backstories (or really need them), and unlike other killer fish movies like the iconic Piranha, Beneath contains no “save the whales” messaging or politicians hosting business-as-usual regattas when swimmers start disappearing from their beaches.

Unfairly maligned, this one is actually quite well shot with an indie sensibility and some choice lines coming at the expense of one member of the party, a wannabe director.

*** (out of 5)