I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Green Inferno

tn_greeninfernoEli Roth is one of the few name brands in modern horror. That’s weird because THE GREEN INFERNO is his first directorial work released in eight years. He’s spent more time producing and writing (the non-horror MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS being his most notable in that area in my opinion) and he was an Inglorious Basterd and what not. But as a director this is only his fourth film. At this point in John Carpenter’s career he was on his twelfth film, PRINCE OF DARKNESS.

I’m glad to have him back though because I’ve liked all of his movies. I remember CABIN FEVER being fun when I saw it at a midnight show, and though I had mixed feelings when I first saw HOSTEL it has grown on me on further viewings. And I especially like HOSTEL PART II, which I think is very underrated, even something of a modern horror classic.

Roth has always been one to talk worshipfully about the Italian horror directors, not just arty Argento but the slimy guys out in the jungle filming muddy maggot ridden zombies and cannibal savages cutting open ancient tortoises. So this is his tribute to those movies, his story of western travelers intruding on the territory of indigenous people who have, you know… different customs.

In the old ones they carried film cameras to make documentaries, these kids carry smart phones to livestream what’s happening. (Don’t worry, it has no found footage elements.) They come as activists trying to stop a corporation from plowing down the rain forest and the people inside it to get to the natural gas underneath. Or “unobtainium,” let’s call it. But their small plane crashes and leaves them stranded near the village, where they are manhandled, poisoned, caged, carved, cooked, eaten, etc. by a fictional Peruvian tribe (portrayed primarily by indigenous farmers who had never left their village deep in the Amazon). The captives plan and fight amongst themselves and try to escape.

I’m not a fan or veteran of this subgenre. Let me tell you my entire history with it. Once, many years ago, I saw Umberto Lenzi’s CANNIBAL FEROX on the big screen. I think I enjoyed it, but it was the finale of an all night horror movie marathon, so I approached it more as an endurance challenge than a movie, and getting through it felt like an accomplishment. Years after that I thought maybe I should see Ruggero Deodato’s CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, to know what people are talking about. I watched the beginning, where a woman gets impaled on a stick from hoo-ha to mouth. I mean I’ve seen fucked up things in movies, it didn’t really upset me, but it gave me the rare-for-me feeling of “Nah, I’m not gonna get anything worthwhile from watching this.” So I didn’t.

mp_greeninfernoTHE GREEN INFERNO has somewhat similar gore and brutality, but it has a completely different feel, one that in this case is to me more (dare I say?) enjoyable. Roth being who he is, and such an excited fan of these movies (the end credits even provide a handy bibliography of cannibal movies and a dedication to Deodato), his homage has a sense of being a put-on. It doesn’t have the same “is this actually made by crazy people?” danger and sleaziness. They don’t kill any real animals, as they did in both of the aforementioned Italian ones. And there are many funny jokes, and a sort of goofy, though not comedic, tone. So although it’s more over-the-top gruesome than your average American horror picture it’s not a grueling, punishing experience like MARTYRS or something. It’s a fun movie for those of us who allow for the possibility of a fun movie where a nice guy gets his eyes, tongue and legs cut off and eaten.

Okay, I just typed that, but I understand that many people would think only a sicko would call this enjoyable. It’s true exploitation in that it intentionally goes beyond the bounds of taste to push our buttons. At school before the trip the heroine Justine (Lorenza Izzo, Roth’s now-wife who starred with him in AFTERSHOCK and is in his next film KNOCK KNOCK) attends a lecture about female genital mutilation. This serves multiple purposes:

1. To give Justine a cause to care about

2. To ground the far-fetched idea of modern day cannibal tribes in the reality of drastically different cultural traditions

3. To instill a fear of what specifically could happen to these poor characters. So if anybody goes to see this movie there will be think pieces, that’s for sure.

In the movie’s defense, though, I absolutely believe that the (very upsetting) lecture scene will do more to raise awareness of this problem in certain circles than any of the publicity that’s already out there. I doubt that’s Roth’s intent, but it’s his result.

The movie’s main strength is a likable performance by Izzo. She manages to be very sympathetic even while playing an American dumb enough to fly to Peru without seeming to learn a word of Spanish. (Since Izzo is Chilean I know this is intentional, and now I feel more inclined to believe Roth’s claims that the guys in HOSTEL are intentionally douchey as a critique of “ugly American” tourists.) It’s also nice to see Daryl Sabara as the funny stoner character Lars. Ever since he grew out of being a Spy Kid I’ve just seen him playing despicable assholes like the bully that gets killed by li’l Michael Myers or the horrible son who auto-erotically asphyxiates himself in WORLD’S GREATEST DAD. In this one I didn’t want him to die.

Ariel Levy (also from AFTERSHOCK) works well as the activist leader Alejandro, who just seems corny when we first meet him strumming a guitar at a campus protest, but gives the audience more and more reason to hate him as it goes along. He has some surprisingly funny parts, though it’s weird when he’s serious because I had a hard time not thinking of him as a Fred Armisen character.

By the way, I noticed this was edited by Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, director of Marko Zaror’s movies KILTRO, MIRAGEMAN, MANDRILL and REDEEMER. I didn’t know Roth knew that guy. Maybe he could get Espinoza and Zaror on a MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS 3.

* * *

It’s weird that Roth, who seems to enjoy traveling the world to film movies and attend film festivals, has made four movies in a row about how dangerous it is to go anywhere. I wonder if they offered him TAKEN? Obviously one way to read the story of THE GREEN INFERNO is “Ha ha, you tried to save their village but they don’t care about you, they’re gonna eat you.” And of course this world view is disproven by the existence of the movie itself, since Roth and crew worked with real natives who seemed to like them okay, and did not try to eat them.

There’s definitely something dumb that Roth is trying to say here about activism. To hear him talk about it, he’s criticizing “slacktivists” and “hashtag activists” who think they can change the world by finding out who Kony is on Twitter. He has that southparkian attitude of wanting to pick apart and shit on anybody who believes in or cares about anything. In a statement to Business Insider, he writes:

My film, however, is about bandwagon activism, or ‘slacktivism,’ which is people jumping in on social media and retweeting causes they actually know nothing about (something these activists seem ready to do with my film). The whole idea of the kids saving the rainforest only to be eaten by the tribe they saved is a metaphor for how people are shamelessly consumed by their vanity and need for validation on social media. These kids in the movie care, but they care more about getting recognized for caring.

I mean come on. #1, what kind of a self involved weiner is more passionate about stopping twentysomething kids from showing off too much than greedy energy companies destroying lives and the planet? That’s just straight up stupid priorities.

#2… “a metaphor for how people are shamelessly consumed by their vanity and need for validation on socia” oh jesus please don’t ever defend your movies in writing again, you bring shame to us for enjoying them. I mean I don’t believe for a second that he thought of any of that until after the fact, but come on. A movie about activists in the rain forest as a metaphor for kids doing retweets that he believes they are unqualified for?

I mean, even if he REALLY DID write it as a metaphor for something he doesn’t like on Twitter WHY would he tell other adults that? After you write that sentence you gotta go back and re-read it and then you will know to delete it before other humans see it. Have some pride buddy.

In an interview with Defamer he elaborates on his anti-consummation-by-vanity stance:

I really noticed Occupy Wall Street was the first moment when, as it was spreading it starts off as this hugely important cause, this kind of tipping point in culture, and all of a sudden, there was a relative of mine that had graduated college and wasn’t working because he was occupying. I was thinking, ‘I don’t know how the banks fucked him over, and maybe he feels strongly,’ but I got the sense that he was going there because his friends were doing it and they were meeting girls and it was fun to occupy.

I suspect you could say that about any important cause throughout human history. For sure you could say it about the Vietnam War protesters. Yet when we remember that era we very reasonably focus our anger and despair on the war and all its consequences and not on god damn it, that asshole with the guitar was just in it to get laid, he didn’t really give a shit about peace.

Who cares? Eyes on the prize, dummy. Do you know that some people thought some of the white abolitionists were posers? Maybe if your were alive back then you wouldn’t have raised a finger against slavery because you’d be too busy trying to expose those guys for being in it just to impress their friends. What a hero you would’ve been, too.

Or to put it in more internetty terms, this is like Superman saves the world from Lex Luthor and we all say he’s an asshole because why does he have to wear a symbol, he’s just trying to make sure everybody knows it was him, plus Batman was doing it already before it was popular, now that Superman’s doing it it’s way too mainstream.

The tagline of THE GREEN INFERNO actually says it: “No good deed goes unpunished.” In the movie’s case by being eaten, in real life by having your motives questioned by people like Eli Roth and South Park.

Roth also uses the right-wing-video-gamer terms “Social Justice Warrior” and “SJW” in the interview. Could he be aligning himself with a cause he “doesn’t know anything about”? And his complaints about people taking credit for their activism are interspersed with boasts about working with PETA and bringing metal roofs and electricity to the village where he filmed. WHAT A SHOW OFF! Why can’t he just do it anonymously, under the cover of night?

Because it’s okay to do good things! He should be proud of that stuff and of other people who try to do positive things for the world. Duh.

If he didn’t say that kinda horse shit publicly, though, it wouldn’t seem to me like the movie was saying any of that. Though he chastises his characters for being excited about recognition on Twitter and Reddit, it’s well established in the story that their goal is to expose the wrongdoings of the company to the public, just like in a million movies before the invention of social media. They may be goofballs, but they’re using a legitimate strategy.

These daring-activists-who-are-I-guess-a-metaphor-for-stay-at-home-slacktivists (?) fly and boat deep into the rain forest and put their lives on the line as human shields in front of bulldozers and gunmen. To me it doesn’t matter that they’ve been misled about it by their asshole leader, they’re doing something we would never be brave enough to do in the name of a cause we all agree with. Even Roth in his Business Insider statement tells the real activists that “if you want to save the uncontacted tribes in Peru, you’re doing something that all of us believe in and many of us secretly wish we were a part of. I applaud you.” Yet in his movie he says he’s scolding the kids who do it to get attention.

Our culture encourages belittling people who take a stand for something they believe in without government sanction, because aren’t they stupid, they’re gonna get themselves killed, and why are they so angry, etc. But I bet Roth wouldn’t be so “politically incorrect” about soldiers going to war for “causes they actually know nothing about.” He’d be okay with praising their bravery and selflessness, and hesitant to make fun of them for being naive or jumping on a bandwagon of #ProtectingFreedom or #StoppingTerrorism because #NeverForget.

His type of kneejerk cynicism is itself consumed by vanity, believing it’s some kind of rebelling against conformity, when really it’s doing the bidding of The Man. Rebelling by crushing the rebellion.

But again, most of that is outside of the movie. In the movie we clearly identify with Justine, Jonah and Lars, who are all idealists trying to do a good thing. In the end when (spoiler) Justine returns to campus and to her tired-eyed stoner best friend Kaycee (Sky Ferreira), who didn’t go on the trip because “activism is so fucking gay,” it’s definitely Justine who we’re supposed to admire. The one who went across the world and escaped the green inferno while the other one laid around in bed talking about nothing with her moronic dread-locked boyfriend.

It’s also worth noting that Roth’s last movie HOSTEL PART II does not side with The Man. It paints a picture of a world where rich men secretly get sexual thrills by torturing and murdering innocent women. The heroine is only able to get out of it by being super rich. It seems angry about it. Maybe that’s why it’s my favorite of Roth’s movies. It seems to care. But maybe it’s just doing it to meet girls, I don’t know.

* * *

After all that I want to make it clear that this is a positive review. THE GREEN INFERNO is a funny, squirmy rollercoaster, the type of scrappy, entertaining indie horror movie we used to have but they got replaced by winky referencey horror comedies. Eli Roth, I don’t like your attitude, but I like your movie.

P.S. It goes without saying that they shoulda brought C3PO with em. Be safe, kids.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, September 28th, 2015 at 9:19 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

55 Responses to “The Green Inferno”

  1. Great review, Vern! The other reviews are always overwhelmingly negative due to the film’s clearly problematic social politics. It’s nice to see one from the perspective of someone who actually likes the genre but is still smart enough to call Eli Roth out on his bullshit.

  2. wow i don’t think i’ve ever disagreed more with one of your reviews. i fucking hated this movie, practically everything about it filled me with rage. terrible first hour of nothing happening (except unlikeable characters trading moronic dialogue) muddled messaging, cartoonish villain, lack of interesting gore/shocks, lack of FUN… and i almost yelled at the screen when that fucking bullshit during the credits happened.

  3. It’s sort of like how Fritz Lang always said M was about how mothers need to take better care of their kids. Like the real issue in Germany in 1931 was parental guidance. Often artists, even talented ones, are some of the worst authorities on what makes their work interesting. Roth always comes off as a ditz to me, but he’s still a good director.

  4. Oh come on, Daryl Sabara wasn’t an asshole in JOHN CARTER.

  5. What does C-3PO have to do with it?

  6. BTW, around 10 years earlier I would have wrote a long comment about why you are wrong about SOUTH PARK, but man, they got so lazy (and often very questionable in their views) over the years…

  7. Wholeheartedly agree re: HOSTEL II… I think it’s his masterpiece, a thus-far unheralded classic. I’m convinced a day will come when the horror community takes another look at that film and realizes that… holy shit, it’s amazing.

    I also really liked AFTERSHOCK.

  8. Wasn’t there an episode of South Park very similar to The Green Inferno? The one where they go with some activists to save the rainforest, and it ends up killing everyone.

    And very sage Vern, very sage. Motivations aren’t all that important if we’re talking about backing a cause. We are what we pretend to be, as Kurt Vonnegut had it. Although he was talking about nazi double agents.

  9. Phillip – I hadn’t heard about Lang saying that. That’s perfect.

  10. Sometimes I wish directors were more like David Lynch. Just be weird and enigmatic, and leave the film criticism to others.

    For whatever reason, I’ve been finding myself bitching lately about South Park, even though I gave up on that show many years ago. I’ve always thought that South Park pretty much morphed into the CNN of adult American cartoons. Like CNN, they’ve developed a view from nowhere in which people are criticized because they have firmly held beliefs that don’t fall squarely in the middle of the political perspective, forgetting that the center position is itself a subjective viewpoint dependent on time and place. What’s centrist in the U.S. changes from decade to decade, and what’s centrist in the world changes from territory to territory. It seems like the show gave up on having an actual point of view shortly after the film came out.

    I’ve never seen and Eli Roth film, because I have only so much tolerance for cinematic gore, but this thread is making me interested in checking out Hostel II.

  11. I haven’t seen Aftershock but I did read the spoiler because I’m a fucking turd that way. I thought I would hate it until I remember that he loves Italian horror films and it would explain just how mean he can be towards his main characters.

  12. Not sure I’ve got the stomach for this one. How much more intense than Hostel or Hostel II are we talking, here?

    I need to see Hostel II again. I couldn’t get into it nearly as much as part I, but Vern seems to think otherwise, so now I’m starting to wonder if I’m on crazy pills or something.

  13. Wow, this was a great review, of both the film and of Roth’s comments on it. I can’t comment on the film because I haven’t seen it, but I’d like to respond to this:

    now I feel more inclined to believe Roth’s claims that the guys in HOSTEL are intentionally douchey as a critique of “ugly American” tourists.

    Ok… was there ever any doubt about this point? At all? I kinda feel like this is so obvious that I put those people who criticise HOSTEL for this reason alongside those who criticise STARSHIP TROOPERS for being “pro-fascist”. HOSTEL is a film about losing your moral sense of compassion through a life of inconsiderate blind consumption, and finding your soul and humanity through suffering. That’s clearly and explicitly the journey that the main character of HOSTEL takes. I mean, I practically wrote an essay on this subject in one of the other comments. If I can find it I’d be happy to link it.

    As for Roth’s statements… I agree with you on Roth’s cynicism about people’s motives. When people do genuine activism work, I think it’s pointless and petty to dispute their “motives”. What does it matter, as long as they’re actually doing some good?

    But let me play devil’s advocate here for a minute. There’s such a thing as a “feelgood solution” to a problem – which isn’t actually a solution at all. The idea isn’t to solve the problem, it’s to look as though you’re solving it. The result is that the real problem gets ignored while the “solution” makes people feel better about themselves.

    I think there’s a good deal of this in “social media activism”. I’m talking about people who believe that if a facebook page gets enough “likes”, the world gets changed. I’ve worked with a few people who had this kind of attitude. And I’m sorry, but that’s not how the world works. I mean, me and about 1,999,999 other people took to the streets of London to protest the Iraq War, and that’s not something I say with pride because we failed dismally. You guys might have noticed that we didn’t actually stop the war! If you can march two million people through the capital and not enact change, what the hell do you think a few tweets is going to do? If you want to do something for a cause, do something for a cause. Don’t sit in your living room and post on facebook to an echo chamber of like-minded users and feel good about yourself because you’re “trying to change the world”. And if that’s the kind of person Roth is cynical about, then I have to agree 100% with him.

    But not about the genuine activists. Those guys I respect. The feelgood brigade though… those guys can go fuck themselves. ‘Cause it takes a special level of hypocrisy to keep calling attention to a problem, over and over again, to have the means to take action to resolve it – even if that just means giving money to a charity or something – and yet to consistently refuse to do so.

  14. Wow Vern, I thought this was a disappointing mess. The first hour is boring, ok we’re getting somewhere though. And then Bam, that first kill is a classic. After that, whoa does it get boring. I kept expecting it to build to some magnificent slaughter…but it just sort of peters out…so boring.

    SPOILER – We don’t even get to see the main assholes comeuppance! We just see him in some non-sensical post credits sequence. Wtf was that garbage?!

    Oh well, time to rewatch, and be seriously grossed out by, Cannibal Holocaust

  15. Found it! Now let me try getting this comments box to actually display the link in such a way that it doesn’t link back to the GREEN INFERNO review itself.

    http://outlawvern.com/2011/11/30/early-review-hostel-part-iii-plus-revisiting-hostels-1-2/#comment-3017904

  16. I get the whole “separate the artist’s politics from the experience of the art” thing, but… ugh. Anybody with a Twitter account knows “SJW” is a gamergate term, and Eli Roth knows it, too. And to me, that’s beyond simply “politics I disagree with”; it’s a concerted hate movement against women. He’s not getting a cent from me.

  17. Haven’t see the movie, but have been interested in it.

    But yeah I don’t get Roth’s point. Like, maybe if they were actual ‘slacktivists’, just posting stuff on facebook or whatever (seriously though at least they even care enough to do that, rather than just be a “it’s not gonna change anything” apathetic asshole)

    But the characters aren’t slacktivists, they are activists! They are going there to act!

    So it seems like it’s only punishing them because of naivety or maybe ignorance. Seriously that attitude is dumb, especially against good causes.

    Like, I don’t know the exact scientific specifics of climate change, but I get the frigging idea and don’t want my kids living in Waterworld. So I am supportive of what we can do to try and not fuck the planet up

  18. #Hashtag activists can be fucking annoying, though.

    /begin pointless response to Bender 3K

    This should be obvious to any clear-thinking cynic . . . but one reason “Climate Change” fits more nicely than “Global Warming” is that whatever happens – however the cookie crumbles – there can still be a crisis that humans/corporations/capitalism are to blame for and that the government gets to solve. One way or another, those people running for office are here to SAVE YOU.

    Yes, I recycle. No, I don’t leave all the lights on in my house. And I kind of liked WATERWORLD.

  19. I enjoyed this movie. I was prepared for it to be a racist bit of bile, but it was surprisingly less-problematic than expected. I liked the way it investigated White Savior mentality, especially in the great speech where the sleazy leader asks, ‘Have you ever dreamt of saving an indigenous tribe?’ with a straight face. And there are 8 or 10 really great gore gags. Real creative stuff.

    Another interesting thing — this movie is structurally very similar to Cabin Fever, especially the weird weed subplot.

    I thought I knew where this was going, but it took a sharp left turn in the last act. Personally, I think the movie would have been better served with a different ending. Here’s my take —

    Justine, in her hilariously literal White Savior body paint, runs through the jungle trying to escape the cannibal horde. She comes to a clearing and discovers a gunfight between the tribe and the mercenaries. The mercenaries kill all of the tribesmen, then head back to the village to save the sleazy group leader. A firefight ensues, the tribesmen are all killed and the village razed. Turns out, Justine’s UN Delegate father sent a ‘peace keeping’ mercenary force to save Justine.

    Now she has all the attention in the world, a camera pointed at her, and she is faced with the choice of telling the truth, or creating a noble savage lie since all the Tribesmen are dead.

    All of that said, I did enjoy the end credit tag setting up BEYOND THE GREEN INFERNO (actual title). Did you stay for that bit, Vern?

  20. Ok… was there ever any doubt about this point? At all?

    Well … yeah. I remember enjoying Cabin Fever, then listening to the director’s commentary and being really put off by the guy. He sounded deeply pleased with himself, and all set to canonize his work alongside his influences – which were usually cited with this smug “I’m enlightening you, so take note” tone. Toss in the repeated snickering about him (and his producer?) being able to get auditioners to take off their tops, heh heh heh, and here’s this actress’ boobs, heh heh, ad nauseum, and it’s easy to imagine that guy with the Hostel crew. Since then he’s consistently come off a good deal better, IMO — but the boorishness really popped in Hostel in a way that suggests he’d more than rubbed elbows with it.

    I think his analyses of his work are afterthoughts. Get sparked by genre idea, make visceral film heavily flavored by past favorites, then come up with contemporary talking points from ideas and themes not fully baked in the movie.

  21. I want to play satan’s lawyer for a second and acknowledge the value of criticizing shit that you love. Because Vern, you can relate to that right, as a film critic? You love movies, so you engage with the form and discover what makes it great.

    So it’s not always about “why are you picking on the guys who get it somewhat right, when there are others getting it 100% wrong?” Same reason its boring to watch and write about movies that suck through and through, but on the other hand if someone ALMOST made something really good, you want to talk about how they could have gone all the way. Also those are the people who you might get the farthest with, since you already know they care.

    I get that that’s not *quite* what’s going on here (or FemFreq vs Mad Max, or Lone Ranger etc) but I hope to add a little perspective is all.

  22. I liked the ending. (Spoilers coming in my opinion.) I didn’t fully understand why she made the choice she did to save the tribe by lying about what happened, but that made it interesting and unexpected. I also liked that she ditched that asshole (shades of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD remake), even though it was immoral. But unlike a few people on the thread I liked that he was still alive. I saw it as sort of a Tell-Tale Heart type situation, or a loose thread, the thing that threatens to expose that she lied and basically sentenced a man to death. The final horror stinger is not a hand coming out of a grave or a nightmare image of another cannibal coming after her, but a fellow student who she left for dead, and he just won’t die.

  23. Inspector Li – see I get that point about what Roth says. Doesn’t make the film any less of a masterpiece than it is though. A lot of great artists have been shitty, shitty human beings. I’m inclined to agree with what you say about his analyses of his work being afterthoughts, if not about HOSTEL itself.

    I know I kinda took the opposing position above, but I agree completely with Vern and the majority about Roth’s use of “Social Justice Warrior”. With all apologies to Griff, the idea that men who support fairness and equality must have some kind of covert agenda or motivation for their actions is just plain crap in the vast majority of cases. And the fact that there’s actually a specific politicised term for them is ridiculous to me, and speaks to the level of paranoia that’s out there about this issue in some circles. So yeah, I am not ok with that, at all.

    Renfield – you make an excellent point in general, if not necessarily about what Roth is trying to say. (To use a personal example: I’m more critical of Carpenter’s THE THING, for example, than almost anybody else I know. If you read some of the stuff I’ve wrote about it out-of-context you might be prepared to swear that I disliked that film, and yet it’s one of my all-time favorites. I focus on the flaws of that film because in every other way it’s such an immensely satisfying experience for me that the few bits of it that don’t work stand out that much more.) As you say, I’m not convinced this is what Roth is going for (I might say the same thing about what I posted above, mind you). But it’s a good point nonetheless.

  24. Many artists suffer from the need to feel Important-with-a-capital-I when they should just shut up and let their work speak for itself.

    I listened to an interview with Roth on and old Creative Screenwriting podcast where he discussed the intentional portrayal of Businessmen-with-a-capital-B as pretty much inherently evil. Then, later, without a thought, bragged about how he craftily leveraged to make as much money as he possibly could from the film. *Cough* … irony lost.

    With all that said, even though Roth is a habitual blowhard, I think it’s healthy to question earnest activists, who, on close inspection, may not be so earnest… and who can sometimes do more harm than good. And, it’s useful and entertaining to ridicule self-righteousness, whether its source is a righty religious cause, or the lefty cause-du-jour.

  25. I have mixed feelings on Roth. I am a big fan of CABIN FEVER, but I don’t like the HOSTEL films. However, I don’t think they are poorly made just not my cup of tea (to brutal for my tastes). I think weather you like Roth or you can’t stand him it is evident that he is a huge fan of exploitation film making and has a strong understanding of the genre, and because of that I think you have to take what he says about his films with a grain of salt. I am not calling Roth liar, but I doubt he really cares that much about these “slacktavsists” as he calls them as much as he is attempting to link his picture to current hot button social issues to get extra publicity for his film. That type of shameless and crass promotion is a call back to the exploitation films of 42 street where they routinely marketed erotic soft-core films as instructional sex health films.

  26. How dare he! And how dare SouthPark! I mean, it’s all fine and good when it’s the *correct* sacred cows that
    are gettin gored/tweaked/lampooned.

  27. Rogue4 – I think SOUTH PARK was equally cynical about left- and right-wing causes. (I remember a particular episode where it tackled anti-war and pro-troops protestors, and I think the overriding conclusion of the episode was that both sides had equally shitty tastes in music.) I think – and correct me if I’m wrong here guys – that what people don’t like about it is that it pretty dismantles anybody who believes in any kind of cause, and pokes fun at them. From what little I’ve seen of the show I don’t necessarily agree with this (I can’t recall a specific instance of it being mean-spirited) but I think you can make the argument that the show is basically endorsing a lifestyle of being cynical about everything and not actually doing anything.

  28. Rogue – Any time I mentioned South Park in a negative light on Ain’t It Cool News was by far the most backlash I ever got for anything. For a show trying to call everybody else too sensitive all the time their fans sure treated it as a sacred cow. I believe that just as they and Roth can call everybody assholes in their work it’s fair for me to point out when I think they are being assholes, which is often.

  29. So basically… everyone’s an asshole. Diogenes would be proud of you, Vern.

  30. I’m not a fan of either Roth’s hypocrisy or Southpark’s brand of nihilism. But I can kind of sympathize with their frustration at people who take themselves waaaay too seriously. “Opinions are like a$$holes” and all that.

    I guess it’s also the sense of constant outrage that social media amplifies. It can be exhausting and absurd. When we can’t make fun of the absurd, it’s all over.

  31. I love HOSTEL 1 and 2, in a decade where 99% of horror movies were remakes Roth came along and created movies that actually managed to bring something new to the table, HOSTEL 2 as Vern has said is especially awesome and I actually feel really bad for Roth that it got so overlooked, it shouldn’t have to take him 8 freakin’ years to get another movie released.

    Cabin Fever is pretty good too, it doesn’t really work so much as horror, it works better as comedy (“PANCAKES!”), but correct me if I’m wrong but CABIN FEVER was basically a DTV release was it not? I remember the early 2000’s and how many shitty DTV horror movies lined the shelves of video stores and along comes CABIN FEVER and it actually managed to be worth watching, as a movie that simply got his foot in the door it was a success.

    However Roth does have diarrhea of the mouth, on all of his movies’ dvds there are multiple commentaries and he talks on and on in all of them, the guy clearly loves the sound of his own voice and in the case of THE GREEN INFERNO being silent would have been the best option, I also agree that it’s disappointing given HOSTEL 2 and it’s brilliant take down of businessmen, which was almost prophetic coming from a movie from 2007 before the recession and all that.

  32. I think there IS an interesting idea to be had here — these young people are seriously motivated to go and help, but unfortunately their aims are lost in translation and the native people assume (and in some ways, correctly) that they’re part of the same machine that’s been consistently fucking with them since it barged into their world. That would be a kind of tragic irony situation mixed in with a little ‘sins of the father’ pathos — these guys have good intentions, but they’re a bit naive about how fucked up beyond repair the situation is gotten, the natives are not in the mood to suffer any foreigners anymore, regardless of their intention.

    Too bad Roth seems to regard this as a morality play about punishing people who annoy him online; there really was something kind of complex to be mined from this material.

  33. Vern – I’m honestly surprised that you can name a “worst” backlash. I thought that comparing AICN complaints was like comparing one number that approached infinity with another number that also approached infinity. (That’s coming from someone who gave up on AICN a long time ago – maybe it’s gotten better now.) My impression was that the only thing you ever wrote that got only one negative comment was the CHAOS review. And I don’t think it counts when the “one” is Demon Dave DeFalco. (It still tickles my ribcage to think of you two as occasional pen-pals. That’s genuinely heartwarming.)

  34. The Original Paul – I agree with you in that South Park takes swipes at both sides but I always felt that it wasn’t cynicism that defined the series but distance. To me, South Park has serious concerns but it doesn’t have the answers or doesn’t even know what the answer is. Instead, it uses satire to create a safe distance between the audience and subject. People laugh but at the same time they do engage with the subject and end up discussing it further to find their own answers.

    I also don’t think it’s nihilistic as well. The “Breast Cancer Show Ever” sided with the “sensitive” Wendy against Cartman’s sick jokes about cancer. And “Raising the Bar” did seem worried about how far we had fallen when we allow a show that exploited a child and her family, just so we could point at them and say “At least we’re not that bad!”

    Anyhow, this is just my opinion. I’m not saying I’m right or wrong. It’s just nice to talk about these things.

    BTW, how is The Green Inferno being released? Is it a limited release / VOD thing or are they risking a wide release? Just curious as to how a cannibal film would play to a mainstream audience.

  35. Griff – CABIN FEVER was absolutely a theatrical release (a decent sized one, too–but not wide enough that I didn’t have to travel across town to see it). The first sequel went DTV.

  36. Griff, I saw CABIN FEVER in the theater, and I think it is fair to call it a comedy.

  37. That’s weird, I don’t remember CABIN FEVER getting a theatrical release at all, it must not have been wide because in my neck of the woods it just popped up on dvd one day.

  38. Saw Cabin Fever in the theater here… twice… and I live in bumfuck (at least compared to a lot of the folks on here from far more metropolitan areas- our levels feeder, included)

  39. I like GREEN INFERNO, but I think its time on the shelf has not been kind to Roth’s interpretation of its subtext. I saw it two years ago at a screening with Roth in attendance and, while a very charming host, he was, even then, talking about this “slacktivist” angle. Since then, we’ve seen some pretty major breakthroughs in social activism and in the way we view people who stand up for change. We’ve actually seen things get just the teensiest bit better, and it wasn’t because of cynical assholes who figure we’re doomed anyway so why bother. It was because enough people were earnest and forthright about the change they wanted that the tide had no choice but to turn. I think Roth’s piss-take of the self-inportant do-gooder archetype might have seemed funny a couple years ago but feels hopelessly behind the times now. Luckily, absolutely none of that bullshit is actually in the movie so it doesn’t harm the film at all. It’s still a fun, well made chunk-blower, the kind they don’t make much anymore.

    I have noticed this thing where some people care more about why and when an individual starts caring about a cause than they do about the cause itself. People will look down on someone for only getting upset about Sea World after seeing BLACKFISH or changing their opinion on the Confederate flag after the church shooting, as if there’s a wrong time to start believing in the right thing. I don’t think there should be a statute of limitations on giving a shit. If you haven’t given one thus far, it’s never too late to start. This isn’t some hipster indie band that you have to like before it was cool. This is morality and ethics and trying to not be a dick. There’s no bad reason to start doing the right thing.

  40. Mr. M — I agree with you, but I do think there’s actually a bit of danger in people getting too involved in causes they really aren’t well-enough informed about. There’s no statue of limitations on giving a shit, but you should probably do a little bit more than just watch a single documentary if you’re going to plunge yourself into a major cause, and one can’t help but suspect that if you haven’t done that up to the point before you watched something on TV, you’re not going to start now. In fact, I’d suggest that a big part of the problems we have in this country is that people get too riled up over things without really learning the facts. Sometimes this can be OK — hey, if FAHRENHEIT 9/11 was what got you to think the Iraq war was a bad idea, you ended up on the right side. But I still worry about what you’ll do when you see AMERICA: IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT HER or something.

    The world, and even moral issues, are extremely complicated, and we often do a disservice to the causes of justice when we try to simplify them and make them easily digestible. I guess it’s necessary to get large-scale social change, but I feel pretty conflicted about it. The problem with “slacktivism” isn’t that people’s motives are bad, but it definitely can encourage people to be lazy about their facts, which then leads to a general disintegration of real meaningful discourse about hard issues and a proliferation of alternate realities talking past each other with their own incongruous sets of facts.

  41. Good points, Subtlety. I’m going to go in a related but further/different direction (not necessarily one you’ll agree with).

    One of the things in particular that I’ve only really dialed into over the last couple of years is the way the internet / social media environment have changed things to where now if you say a couple of poorly chosen words or let out a couple of off-the-cuff thoughts that you probably should have worked over a bit more, before you know it you’ve got like 20 different major media outlets (and social media at large) just pummeling you and letting everyone know what a terrible bigot you are, and it kind of just snowballs. Stuff like that just didn’t happen five years ago. Weirds me out. Something about the general meanness of the internet, the 24-hour / celebrity-watching social media cycle and this growing collective obsession to shaming everyone who says something politically incorrect or ignorant.

    Like, right now, it’s about what an ethnocentric homophobe Matt Damon is. And I think it’s fine to say that some of his views are off-base and have a dialogue about that, but there is a tendency to let the words define a person and more generally to expert a person to have all the right views and always express them correctly and be on. Like any time a person says something ignorant that is the “true” them coming through, as opposed to a tired, sleep-deprived, logorrheic version of them that isn’t filtering things very well. The fact is that most of us have unconscious biases and some degree of implicit racism and/or other -isms at work in our psychology, so the difference isn’t between the pure, unbigoted righteous crusaders and the evil and benighted bigots–it’s between those of us who are hopefully growing in our humility, self-reflexiveness, and willingness to dialogue and entertain other perspectives as opposed to knee-jerk labeling or demonization.

    Like, people are nuanced, they are not always consistent, and their motives are mixed. Instead we want to put them in the good guy / bad guy column. Like Tarantino. He’s clearly an aphro-phile, obsessed with black culture (among other things he’s obsessed with), and sometimes he does things some folks in the black community (Spike Lee, to name one) find offensive or exploitative or just not things a white guy should be doing. So, is he a champion of black people or a culture stealer or a “wigger” or a person who draws attention to the brutality of slavery or a person who exploits it and over-stylizes it or what. All of the above, I would submit.

    I don’t know that I have a point in this rant (I’m a little sleep deprived, myself, so please treat this as my final definitive statement on everything) except that I think the environment is one where people are so defensive and entrenched into their high-fiving mob mentality us-them echo chambers, and then people are constantly trolling for violations of political correctness to the point where it creates an environment where dialogue often doesn’t seem very productive or even well-intentioned. It’s just people talking for the sake of talking and making themselves feel righteous and piling on. Not everyone, but it’s a definite current.

    On the plus side, it did expose the whole Bill Cosby thing to some fresh scrutiny, it’s drawn fresh attention to police brutality, etc. So, there are some definite “wins” for the kind of snowballing, meme-ing, viral thing that happens when traditional and social media latch on to something, but there is also a kind of scary dichotomizing mob-like quality to it, as well.

  42. To give you an example of the kind of bizarro levels of meta- political correctness and special interest agenda identity politics that I’m talking about, here’s this thing where Lena Dunham feels compelled to apologize to her fans for an off-the-cuff comment wherein she likened the way Gawker and Jezebel websites have trolled her to a physically abusive husband. She feels compelled to apologize because her using that analogy/simile is apparently insensitive to women who actually have been physically abused by their husbands. My reaction: this is very much a legitimate, if hyperbolic, analogy: namely, they’re both acts of bullying and cruelty.

    I even read some comment post under an article about “It Follows” where the poster was chiding the film(maker) because the film apparently communicated messages that were “heteronormative” and not “sex positive” with respect to women. Good heavens.

    My point is just, when did it become normal for large swaths of people to just be constantly scanning for these kinds of special interest identity language game fouls to the point where “could some group of people possibly find this even mildly insensitive?” becomes the primary lens through which some people interpret pretty much anything a public figure says.

    (Editor’s note: I apologize for using the term “husbands” above, which I now recognize was both sexist and heteronormative)

    Lena Dunham Regrets Comparing Websites to an Abusive Husband

    Lena Dunham is apologizing to fans after comparing certain websites to domestic violence. In a le...

    Lena Dunham: Reading Gawker and Jezebel is “like going back to a husband who beat me in the face”

    She also hardly uses Twitter anymore, citing body shaming and verbal abuse

  43. I didn’t really enjoy HOSTEL so I didn’t bother with the second one but you guys are making me want to see it.

    I live in Madison, Wisconsin, the home of slacktivism and I can see where Roth is coming from. There’s a ton of people who are constantly advocating for things that they don’t even really think about, particularly on social media. There is a point to be made here, like, “Hey kid, you wanna save these native tribes in the jungle, but if you ever run into them, they’d kill and eat you.” It doesn’t mean that all activists are bad or all are corporations are evil or all native tribes are cannibals and shouldn’t be preserved. I think his point and the SOUTH PARK guys’ point is to think more critically about things and the more we judge without taking a minute to at least attempt to understand the multiple sides of each issue, the dumber we look.

    Reminds me of that Cecil The Lion op-ed in the NYT, where the guy from Zimbabwe said “We don’t cry for lions” because they actually kill people in his home country. I’m a vegetarian (not always easy in a state where even most of the liberal-minded are hunters) and I can see that writer’s point.

    I’m not saying Eli Roth isn’t a jerk (I’ve never met the guy) but he saw something that annoyed him on Facebook or Twitter or whatever, and it inspired him to make a movie. You guys are painting him like he’s an actual asshole just because of an interview he gave where he might have expressed an opinion you disagree with. Hypocrisy does exist in activism, politics, filmmaking, etc… and there are people whose sole purpose online seems to be perpetually offended. A black and white view of the world works great for a movie like MISSING IN ACTION, but it makes it annoying to try and have an honest and intelligent conversation.

  44. Mike — well, I’d say there’s a difference between wishing Americans were better informed on the issues and the Roth/South Park approach, which seems to be cynically dismissing people just because they care about things. I have my problems with slacktivism, but I think that the basic motivation to be idealistic and do good for the world, where you are and with what you have, is a net gain for humanity, something that deserved to be snarkily poo-pooed. We all have to start somewhere, and if you use your slacktivism as a jumping-off point to get better engaged with the world, fantastic. I find it pretty self-defeating to just tear down anyone who tries to do something positive (even if they’re not doing as good a job as one might hope), as if they were stupid just to try. I’d love to see the activism get more thoughtful and nuanced, but better to have more people out there having a messy, not-always-quite-right fight than to wait for perfection before weighing in.

  45. The Original Paul

    October 1st, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    Mr S:

    “I think that the basic motivation to be idealistic and do good for the world, where you are and with what you have, is a net gain for humanity, something that deserved to be snarkily poo-pooed.”

    I think I might be misunderstanding things here. “Slacktivism” isn’t a term I’ve heard before. Are we talking about “social media activism” here?

  46. I think Subtlety meant it *didn’t* deserve to be poo-pooed.

    And, yes, slacktivism is kind of like social media activism. It’s getting all righteous about a cause that you really don’t know anything about and don’t really do anything about it, other than get all righteous. So, that mostly translates into being an asshat about stuff online.

  47. The Original Paul

    October 1st, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    Maggie – yeah, I agree with Subtlety about the poo-poohing bit. 100%.

    But it seems to me that the “social media activists” are doing the exact opposite. In some cases I think they’re actually making things worse. The people I mentioned that I worked with would triumphantly say they didn’t donate to charity to help their pet cause because “all the money goes to admin costs anyway, it doesn’t do a thing to help the cause does it?” Anything to help their worldview that “why bother making an effort when you can’t change anything anyway?” And in doing so, they’re actually discouraging real effort to solve problems. I understand it well because I went through that phase myself for a while… I don’t much like the person I was back then. The difference is, I grew out of it. Not everyone does.

    Not that ALL “social media activists” are like this. A lot of them are just the “talk about an issue on facebook”-type. But that’s my point… it takes a special type of hypocrisy to convince yourself that you’re “doing good” when all you’re really doing is shouting into an echo-chamber. And that may come across as ironic when posted on an Internet forum, but then that’s not all that I do. And I’m not deluded enough to think that what I post here has any effect beyond “having a good debate on the web”. Actually changing real-world stuff takes dedication, planning, teamwork and effort. Not just sitting in your bedroom typing on your computer all day. I think there are people out there who don’t seem to want to grasp this concept, and I’ve known a few of them.

    Anyway – before I get too much like the guy who only ever complains on the internet myself! – my point is these people aren’t motivated by “idealism”. Quite the opposite in some cases. There’s a difference between someone who learns about a cause through facebook and is inspired to do something to help with it, and a “social media activist” who does nothing BUT complain on facebook about an issue (and who probably wouldn’t want it fixed anyway ’cause then he’d have nothing to complain about!)

  48. I totally missed South Park. The only episode I’ve watched is the Kanye West Fish Sticks episode, which was pretty funny, and I think Kanye west deserves every bit of lampooning South Park or anyone else has to give. I also think Kanye is very talented and should keep doing his thing, just that he is so blatantly and ridiculously provocative: you are absolutely intentionally and constantly courting controversy and attention, so don’t be surprised when you get it.

    I think there are various unhelpful responses to our contemporary world that relatively wealthy, educated “first-world” folks like us can make. I will paint with broad brushstrokes. There is the white conservative response, which is to essentially live in denial of a great deal of things (racism, sexism, evolution, climate change, the inefficacy of supply-side economics, the risks of aggressive military adventurism and brinkmanship). Then there is the special interest group identity politics approach, which is to view the end goal of life to re-engineer every aspect of our society (including everyone’s speech) so as to conform to an almost Orwellian ideal of equality and sensitivity. I would say that the former is decidedly more dangerous, because it entails an unwillingness to face foundational realities and a willingness to watch–or even actively hasten–the implosion our environmental, economic, and geopolitical environments. However, the latter is also creepy and oppressive and self-righteous. It is a healthy activism that has been poisoned by shallow, self-important snark and mean-spiritedness.

    If it’s not already a clear, I think there’s a distinction between what I regard as an essentially neutral to benevolent slacktivism (retweeting and posting things that are legitimate causes that deserve our attention) vs. a self-righteous, brow-beating, hyper-partisan mob psychology, of the kind I described above in terms of Matt Damon and Lena Dunham. The former I think is a net plus. It’s the browbeatingly self-righteous lynch mob version that gives me the creeps (unless it’s going after Bill Cosby or cops who are so de-sensitized that they treat innocent and unarmed people like dangerous animals—those are worthy villains for the mob to go after).

  49. Yeah, that “didn’t” was a pretty important word to leave out.

  50. The Original Paul

    October 2nd, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Mr S – Yeah, I didn’t spot the “didn’t” was even missing. I agree with what you meant, obviously.

  51. Jareth Cutestory

    October 3rd, 2015 at 7:28 am

    In fairness to SOUTH PARK, they’re capable of modes of expression that aren’t cynical or reactionary, they just don’t employ these modes often. The Butters character is often the vehicle that expresses this facet of their thinking, as is Wendy.

    In fact, sometimes they can be almost subtle, which is more than I can say for most cartoons, even political cartoons like Doonsbury. Think of that recent episode where Wendy tries to articulate how Photoshop contributes to negative body images. It’s not necessarily a nuanced argument, but it’s more poignantly realized than they’re often given credit for.

    Anyway, there’s always a disconnect in my head when SOUTH PARK gets dragged into serious conversations. I’ve never heard evidence that the show’s creators take any of it seriously enough to warrant inclusion in any meaningful discussion. The satire would suffer if they cared.

  52. No sign of a cinema or DVD release over here for this one, so I caught up with Deodato’s CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, having avoided because I’ve never been into the mondo Italian gore stuff, with the exception of Fulci’s ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS, which I think is his best one, atmospheric, even arty in places with the cinematography. Bleak as fuck final scene on the Brooklyn Bridge. Also, zombie vs shark.

    I think I can see why Roth likes CH so much, and how it even influenced his HOSTEL’S with its subtext on how some Americans can be dicks when they travel abroad, whether it’s to party or invade, in this case the American adventurers making a documentary about a Peruvian tribe while simultaneously terrorizing, raping and ridiculing them. I was not expecting such a succinct swipe.

    I counted four real life animal deaths, which weren’t pleasant, but somehow fitted with the subtext of “who’s the real animals/cannibals”, and a thoroughly disturbing ritualistic punishment and murder by a native husband on his supposedly unfaithful wife, which reminded me of the archaic and misogynistic practices in parts of present day Middle East.

  53. His claims of pointing out slacktivism and knowing the plot of the movie pissed mr off enough to not watch this. “But your characters ARE doing something, you jackass!”
    Anyway, hearing someone else say it (Vern) and then liking the movie makes me now want to see it.
    Seriously, I like his movies, but he always comes off as a frat boy asshole.

  54. grimgrinningchris

    April 8th, 2017 at 8:47 am

    Funny that I just finally saw this joint yesterday and come to re-read the review/discussion and just how much the movie (and discussion) focus on motivation, right and wrong, when and if to act etc… and the consequences inherent therein. Especially given what’s happened over the last 48 hours in the world. And a very blatant case of someone doing the (arguably) right thing for (inarguably) the completely wrong reason and half the country crucifying him for it and the other half thinking he’s the second coming of G.I. Joe for it with their ridiculous “America Finally Got Its Balls Back” memes.

    Always fascinating discussions here in Verntownvilleburg.

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