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What’s the point of watching horror movies? An often argued reason is catharsis. Horror movies have a unique way of dredging up cultural anxieties and playing them to their worst ends on screen, so when the lights come up, we can say, "it’s only a movie," and dismiss those fears away. Eli Roth has managed to do this in artful, cheeky ways with his films "Cabin Fever" (flesh-eating viruses), and "Hostel" and "Hostel Part Two" (commercialized torture). In his latest effort, "The Green Inferno," he works out that oh-so-scary fear of … hashtag activism? Coupled with a throwback, retro cannibalism storyline that is groan-worthy, Roth’s "The Green Inferno" is a flop of a horror film that overestimates gore for actual scares.
You have to wonder if Roth completely forgot or just abandoned traditional horror filmmaking, where screams and suspense are meted out over the course of a film to keep the tension flowing. The first half of "The Green Inferno" is a dull, half-baked eco-drama where Columbia University freshman Justine (Lorenza Izzo) links up with a group of activists headed to the Amazon rain forest to live-stream and shame developers who are threatening the land of an ancient tribe.
"THE GREEN INFERNO"
Though the protest appears to be a success, when the students’ plane crashes in the jungle — with them outfitted in "BioGas" jumpsuits to infiltrate the work site — it’s time for the horror to begin. The indigenous Amazonian tribe, mistaking them for developers, hauls them back to their village for a barbecue in which they are the main course.
What follows is a grim drudgery without an ounce of suspense.
The one thing that Roth has preserved from horror tropes is the Final Girl, a role that Justine fits to a T. There’s even a gruesome ritual to check the status of her virginity, which is Final Girl Rule No. 1. But this doesn’t play on that horror trope, but rather just ties back to the continual task of situating the tribe as different, foreign and other. If one thing is clear, it’s that Roth’s real anxieties lie in foreigners and their mysterious customs.
It’s clear that Roth was trying to say something about the brave new world of social media-enabled social justice, and public shame as a tool for change, but the message is garbled. That it comes wrapped in a horror package that just isn’t truly scary or suspenseful is the real shame though.
Review by Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service