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)

Mortuary

You’d be forgiven for thinking Mortuary is a zombie film, what with the poster art (right) and the admonition that “before you are covered with the last shovelful of dirt…be sure you are really dead.”

However, Fulciesque pretenses aside, this one is a reasonably straight-ahead slasher film, with witch coven/witching action sprinkled about for an extra smidgen of visual and narrative interest.

Two college students are skulking about in a mortuary, which looks like a Lower Manhattan garment factory for some reason. One of them (Josh) goes missing after the other (Greg) witnesses some kind of seance in which the participants are dressed like Supreme Court Justices.

He bolts, and asks around the local roller rink as to where oh where his buddy went. With enough disco boogieing to pad the lean running time, he’s off with his girlfriend, Christie, who in the film’s outset, loses her father to a baseball-wielding assailant (with the vic being ever so gently nudged, rather than swatted like A-Rod, and bunted into a pool and left to drown).

Christie is tormented by her pop’s demise, and doesn’t buy the police explanation (along with the bulk of the viewing audience) that his death was an accident.

But this is called Mortuary for a reason, barely.

There’s an antagonist with pasty white makeup stalking her, creeping around in the bushes wielding a trocar, the implement of choice for sucking fluids out of bodies (posthumously, that is, probably. Not for lipo). So this leaves little to no doubt about who the perp is, as there are only two characters connected to the mortuary, one, a mortician and the other, the owner of the business, played by Christopher George.

There’s a stand-out performance from a young Bill Paxton (Twister/A Simple Plan) and George’s wife co-stars alongside her hubby, who sadly, shuffled off his mortal coil shortly thereafter, speaking of mortuaries.

*** (out of 5)

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