‘The Green Inferno’: Roth’s Return A Résumé-Tainting Misfire


 No good deed goes unpunished


After an NYU college girl’s confrontation with a headstrong campus activist, Justine decides to join the cause in an attempt to stop an indigenous tribe’s rainforest home from being demolished in favor of a more westernized way. But when the trip is suddenly derailed and the group is captured by the same people they were attempting to save by mistake, Justine must pass life’s ultimate test if she has any hope of staying alive. With her friends being eaten one by one, and her getting closer to being tonight’s main course, its only a matter of time until no one is left. Fighting for the cause was one thing. Frying for the cause is quite another. Welcome to The Green Inferno.


I remember being deep in the throes of Lassiter middle school, somewhere in sixth or seventh grade I believe, and hearing indie-favorite Cabin Fever being compared to the classic The Evil Dead; Roth to Raimi as well. While the Internet wasn’t on everyone’s hip like a futuristic gunslinger, with WiFi signals radiating from devices like tech bullets, there was still an outcry for the film in trades and when I could get the dial-up to freaking work, on the net. Though the film wouldn’t come out for a few more years, eventually being bought by Lionsgate in the now mega-studio’s horror heyday, I was eventually able to see Cabin Fever in that magical place we call the multiplexes. Fast forward 12 years and it still ranks among the best horror films of the last 25 years. So naturally I was excited for Roth, who basically hasn’t been an active filmmaker in over eight years, to bestow a new creature feature for us fiends of the screen to devour. Sadly, Inferno isn’t the horror homecoming that we were expecting. So let’s all enroll in a few college courses, be a muscle meal for man, and be a fellow member of all mankind as I review the 2015 crazy uneven-and just plain crazy-cannibalistic feature.

I know. I just think I should be doing something about the rainforest-Justine


Roth directs Inferno with the poise of a playful kid in an Amazonian candy store, only one who forgets that sweets are a once-in-a-while kind of treat. Roth, director of two of my all-time favorites in 2003’s fantastic fleshy feature Cabin Fever and 2006’s magnificent money-for-murder movie Hostel, really drops the ball with his totally uneven tale of the tribe of torn body parts and the group that makes the mistake of helping them; The film is nowhere near as accomplished as the filmmaker’s first two films. Those movies are almost, ironically, endeavors you could offer three-credit college courses on. They feature lots of well composed shots and camerawork is sharp, but Roth’s fourth feature is almost devoid of the juice he had in his two breakout pictures. Almost.

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The good news from Inferno is that Roth can still direct, it’s just not the comeback film that M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit turned out to be. Inferno, a film that was shelved for a year as the result of picture politics and eventually saved by Jason Blum and his future major studio Blumhouse Productions, is amateurish compared to some of the filmmaker’s other features. While camerawork and composition aren’t really there, the way Roth gets things going once the group gets to the Amazon is awesome. The way he shoots the tree-crowded setting is beautiful, and in fact, the shots of the Amazon are the best in the picture. So it’s hard to call Inferno a complete directorial misfire from the filmmaker.

But mind you, the film is way more bad than good. There is one scene for example, and it has nothing to do with his camerawork or composition but a red flag from the editing bay comes right in the middle of the dismal first act featuring Justine walking and talking with her close friend Kaycee. What’s blaring is the scene seemingly alternates between different lines read by actress Lorenza Izzo that make her seem both a nice person and a flat-out female dog. You’d have to see it to believe it, but it’s really awkward and it blows my mind Roth didn’t see it in his own film. Not only is the scene odd and massively confusing, it makes the protagonist come off extremely unlikable. In fact, the movie has problems establishing characters almost universally. Which brings me to Inferno’s abomination of a script. (C+)


The Inferno script is beyond bad and extremely frustrating. Not only is the film confused as to what it wants to be – the film tap dances in place with a first act – but the first act is so bad it’s going to be truly difficult to articulate it entirely here. Literally, the entire first 30 minutes are a throw away that could have been solved with simplistic story-telling equaling about five minuets. The film spends so much mind-numbing time establishing the main character, who is also horribly written in the first act as we alternate between liking her and hating her almost simultaneously, that I almost got physically angry with the filmmaker. It’s basically just stupid conversations with her friend that establishes nothing and feels like it’s part of another film entirely.

The second act is actually quite accomplished and is ultimately the strongest act of the film. In fact, the movie doesn’t establish itself until the second act. You could show up to the theater 25 minutes late and have a better experience than viewing the thing from the beginning. Roth’s sequence where the tribe escorts the group to their village in the second act is very effective and he not only shows he can still direct, but he can get genuine suspense from his audience. Sadly, this is all too short, and before long, the film resumes its first act fall from grace.

It isn’t until the group leaves the States that not only does the main character begin to establish a connection with the audience, but the surrounding characters (who are going to provide dramatic tension and impact the journey of Justine) become relevant in the show or, even in a few cases, show up on screen at all. I swear, if it weren’t for my buddy Joseph Siegel, a local comedian and all around good man, providing live commentary in the theater, I may not have made it through the picture. Honestly, he made me add the good guy part. Don’t tell anyone, he might beat me up.

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The Green Inferno (which gets its name from and is an homage to Ruggero Deodato’s carnage classic Cannibal Holocaust) is almost the product of a director less focused on true storytelling and more on the gore-show shock factor. I love gore (the film features an epically gory death), but without proper character nurturing and the right tone, it’s not effective; Inferno’s tone is all over the place.

While I’ve heard the same argument of Hostel, which is entirely incorrect in so many ways but does have a midway tone shift, Inferno shifts tone like the gears of a big rig. While the script works for a while and treats characters and life with respect, the third act features unneeded attempts at comedy that make it hard to not only care about the film as a whole but the characters as well. There’s a huge difference between a character’s personality being goofy and the film being goofy at the expense of reality. If the tone’s there, that’s one thing, but Roth goes back and forth too much in The Green Inferno with his desire to have his bloody cake and eat it too. Even in a really serious film, an awkwardly placed joke can make the character who said it endearing (making their death have a potentially huge impact on the audience). Randy from Wes Craven’s Scream series (1996-2011) comes to mind (spoilers for Scream 2). This is something Roth has forgotten in his absence to film-making.

The film is nowhere near as accomplished as the filmmaker’s first two films

Other than that, Inferno’s third act features idiotic plot contrivances and eventually robs the second act of its hard work. In all actuality,  Inferno gives the audience a shell of what it could have been, which is the film’s biggest sin. (D-)


The acting in Inferno is by far the least of the film’s problems. In fact, save for one or two people, the cast is quite strong. Roth, using a stable of friends and past collaborates, did a decent casting his film.

Lorenza Izzo stars as Justine and really comes into her own when the second act starts to roar. Izzo, wife of Roth, also stars in the filmmaker’s upcoming Knock Knock starring Keanu Reeves. She is really good at playing the good girl who’s got more innocence than instincts. She’s not stupid; in fact she’s the opposite (after the initial characters first act introduction), and you really care for her because of the actress’ abilities.

Ariel Levy is without a doubt the strongest actor in the film. Playing Alejandro, Levy is so good at making you feel the way he wants you to depending on the narrative placement in the script. I admired his ability as a performer to twist my perception of his character.

Then there is Daryl Sabara, playing comedy relief Lars. Sabara, whose mostly known for The Spy Kids franchise (2001-2011), is hilarious in Inferno. I hope he works more because he really adds the much needed comedy relief in the film and does a little to counteract Roth’s misfired attempts at comedy for the sake of story.

The supporting cast and the two tribe leaders, who were actually among members of a real-life tribe, were great in the film as well. In fact the two tribe leaders, played by Ramon Liao and Antonieta Pari, are probably the strongest performers in the piece. (B-)


The Green Inferno is a horrible misfire of a film. It’s tonally uneven and insultingly tainted in its attempt to get a reaction from the audience. It’s a film that starts extremely bad, gets better, and ends in a horrible mess. If you’re a Roth fan, like me, then it’s worth it to support an artist that’s capable of so much more. Gore heads will like it too, but other than that, I can’t recommend the film to anyone else. Causal viewers will hate undoubtedly it. Deadites, you’ve been warned.

The Grade: D+