Eli Roth‘s The Green Inferno has been a hot topic in gore and horror pictures of late, and while it’s certain to please devoted Roth fans and gore flick lovers in general, it’s also sparked a wave of backlash and controversy. Never mind that Rotten Tomatoes rates the film at 37% positive based on aggregated critic reviews; that’s fairly common. Horror films are often either misunderstood by mainstream movie critics or just disliked for their campy nature. Beyond the generally poor overall tone of the reviews, a more interesting point of discussion is that many have suggested The Green Inferno is offensive and/or misguided. But is that really the case?
Let’s address some of the popular criticisms one-by-one.
1. The Message Misses
Moviepilot raised this point in an article from a contributing film blogger, and it was a nice presentation of the issue that many have taken up with The Green Inferno. The article cites Roth’s explanation that he wanted to critique “slacktvisim”‚Äîa term given to people today (usually millennials) who believe that activism means liking a cause on Facebook or signing an Internet petition. Needless to say for anyone who’s seen it, The Green Inferno concerns a group of students who travel to an Amazon rainforest to fight a gas company, only to be captured and tortured by a fictional rainforest tribe.
To suggest that Roth misses this message is, frankly, entirely fair. And it’s not really that complicated to explain why: the students being tortured and killed in this movie aren’t slacktivists at all‚Äîthey’re genuine activists who take it upon themselves to journey to the source of a problem to try to make a difference. Roth’s basic idea, which is to mock and demean slacktivism, is actually a pretty noble one. But it appears that on his way to executing it, he stereotyped an entire generation, classifying young people as slacktivists despite their (meaning, his own characters’) real world initiative. It’s not a huge issue for a piece of fiction, but it never helps when a movie totally whiffs on its message.
2. The Film Is Offensive
This was the more predictable critical issue with The Green Inferno. Fusion argued the film hurts Amazon tribes by sticking to Hollywood clich√©s and presenting native tribes as bloodthirsty monsters, barely human in nature (if at all). Roth’s response to this criticism, understandably enough, is that he’s presenting fiction rather than a take on real life. So is it actually offensive?
Are Criticisms Of “The Green Inferno” Justified? The argument against criticizing The Green Inferno in this regard would simply be that it does nothing new, other than adding a little violence. That is to say, the presentation of “The Amazon” as an adventure land filled with monsters is certainly nothing we haven’t seen. Wonder Woman is about to become one of the biggest character names in cinema when she joins the DC Universe next year. Additionally, Gala Bingo’s lineup of casino games already features the character, who’s known as the Amazonian Princess, “fending off a wave of zombies.” The games also include a few other Amazon warrior concepts alluding to the land as a dangerous realm of monsters.
Looking back a little further, there’s even a relatively recent example of similar themes in film. Cloud Atlas, which was more or less panned but based on a very highly praised novel by David Mitchell, presented native rainforest tribesmen as monsters. Although, these weren’t Amazon tribesmen specifically, and Mitchell’s work is understood to have an element of fantasy and even pageantry to it.
So really, it might be unfair to saddle Roth with this particular criticism, given that it comes on the back of a long history of fictional trivialization of native tribes. If there’s room to criticize, it’s probably in the fact that Roth is picking and choosing how he wants his film interpreted. It’s difficult to argue in favor of your real world message (the whole slacktivisim thing) while saying that the savagery aspects of your film are purely fictional.
3. It Isn’t Gory Enough
This is another criticism that was pointed out in the aforementioned Moviepilot article, and frankly it’s one that it’s difficult to think of while you’re in the process of watching The Green Inferno. To his credit, Roth is skilled at creating dangerous, threatening scenarios. While you’re watching his work, it almost always feels like someone’s either being mutilated or on the cusp of being mutilated. So, even if the message is a little absent or there are some troubling aspects to the film, the pure violence‚Äîan important aspect in any gore/horror film‚Äîis there.
Only, it’s kind of not there in The Green Inferno. Without getting into specific spoilers, there’s actually a lot lacking for those who choose to see a movie like this in order to witness cartoonish blood splatters and violent deaths. A lot of this stuff happens off camera, leaving something to be desired for those who appreciate the visuals.
Ultimately this is still going to be a worthwhile film if you’re into the genre or love Roth’s work. Letting go of social concerns and specific criticisms, it’s the kind of movie you probably know if you’re going to like or not. In other words, it doesn’t offer a ton of surprises for its genre, but gives you more or less what you expect. On the other hand, looking at the film in a broader context, the criticisms do seem to be pretty justified.