Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno nicks its title from a translation of the Natura contro, perhaps better known as Cannibal Holocaust II. Wearing its lineage on its sleeve demonstrates that Roth’s version of the cannibal film, is, in a sense, a loving tribute to Italian cannibal movies from the early 1980s. However, the movie itself, despite borrowing the conceit of the cannibal movie from Ruggero Deodato and Umberto Lenzi, is given a wholly contemporary spin on the genre by Roth and his collaborators.
Despite landing in the Amazon in order to save the planet from corporate interest and being captured by a tribe of cannibals, star Lorenza Izzo’s character Justine slowly discovers that the villain may actually be one of her own. Roth illustrates that the movie is suffused with a dollop of modernity in the form of a burgeoning narcissism which he terms ‘slacktivism’, observing that “My film is just a comment on what’s happening. I think it’s just holding up a mirror (to society)”.
Indeed, Roth has much to say on the culture of privilege, noting that, quite unintentionally, his films have all involved children of wealth poking around the globe, sticking their noses where they do not belong, and discovering to their chagrin that locals and natives do not kowtow to their sense of entitlement.
Roth does not dismiss the concept of activism, but simply believes that is performed in the wrong way. Indeed, one of the ‘good guys’ in the film is revealed to be a classic narcissist, (though we have to wait until the sequel to see comeuppance), many other ‘heroes’ meet grisly fates, and only the naïve Justine, who ironically, comes from even greater privilege than the rest, manages to keep her dignity intact.
Roth unleashes his greatest vitriol for the holier-than-thou that try to lead a movement from behind a computer screen: “I believe that now, Twitter has become a place for people to be very sanctimonious because they have a voice, and want to show the world what good people they are. Kids just want to hit the ‘Retweet’ button. Everybody wants to be an activist, but really with a bare minimum effort”.
Despite his critique of those that activists from afar, Roth gets most animated when speaking to his legion of advocates, and with The Green Inferno, clearly seeks to find more: “I want people to watch the movie and be entertained…but first and foremost…I wanted to build the scariest roller coaster in the park. I wanted to outdo myself, top all my other movies, and have people go ‘wow, this guy’s for real. He’s made four movies, all of which kick my ass. I’ll see anything he does’. That’s what I want.”
Roth, while contemptuous towards the slacktivists, obviously still relishes online engagement from observers: “Now they can tell me whether I achieved (this) or not, instantly…@EliRoth, boom, there you go”.