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)

Crawl

Parisian Alexandre Aja is one of the more dependable horror directors out there, bursting out of with the exemplary Haute Tension and the surprisingly adroit remake of The Hills Have Eyes.

When it comes to creating tension, he definitely didn’t have to “Crawl” before he could walk.

This one’s a surprisingly character-driven effort however, absent the doctrinal “don’t mess with nature” environmental messaging so common among animal attack flicks, the furtive laboratory, the nuclear waste disposal site, the unheeded warnings from scientists, etc.

A swimmer from the University of Florida (yes, they’re nicknamed “the Gators”), Haley (Kaya Scodelario), gets a call that there’s a category 5 ‘cane coming to lay waste to Florida. She goes to check on the status of her pops, who was also her swim teacher, skirting law enforcement checkpoints to do so.

At the Coral Lake adode, dad is stuck in the um…”crawlspace” and under water and under siege: voracious gators have gotten in via the storm drain, a neat nod to the gators in the sewer urban legend, although very realistic as The Sunshine State is really gator country.

From there, the flooding pummels the homestead and wicked winds whip up, all created on a Serbian sound stage of all places, it should be said, very convincingly.

There’s some pretty good tension and the familial dynamic is nicely played up, as the dad was a bit heavy-handed pushing the fruit of his loins into sports and she’s more than a bit resentful, especially after a relay loss in the opening frame. But of course her swimming abilities will eventually serve her well.

And with Crawl, it’s pretty innovative to have animal scares confined primarily to a home versus being out in the wilderness, where this kind of thing would typically be set, the likes of Rogue, for example, or even a scaly creature wreaking havoc in a city (Alligator).

*** (out of 5)