Antonio Climati/ Italy/ 1988/ 90 mins
On Blu-ray from Mon 11 Mar 2019
Not to be confused with Eli Roth‘s revivalist exploitation gore-fest of the same name, The Green Inferno is one of the many Euro horrors of a certain vintage that have gone by different names in order to cash in on other, unrelated films. For many years it was better known by the title Cannibal Holocaust II, despite lacking any connection to Ruggero Deodato‘s legendary shocker. Whether it benefited from the association is difficult to say, but on its own terms, it is a forgettable effort that seemed to signal a death knell for the disreputable sub-genre in the late ’80s.
The Green Inferno feels more like a European attempt at a rollicking jungle adventure, a la Romancing the Stone than hellish survival horror. The ’15’ certificate is a clue that it falls between two stools as being light on the more gruesome aspects of other films of its ilk, but with enough of the requisite native nudity that you would expect. What it also lacks is any actual cannibalism, which is some fairly egregious false advertising.
Climati is more interested in the customs and rituals of the Imas tribe. Not unexpectedly given that he is better known for his involvement in the Mondo “shockumentaries” that came out of Italy from the early ’60s. The story itself sees the tribe as victims of child smugglers and gold prospectors that are assisted by a group of four intrepid friends in search of an anthropologist who vanished in the Amazon. This certainly sidesteps any accusations of racism in its depiction of the Imas. It does, however, fall very much into a white saviour narrative. The Imas are more than capable of fighting back against their tormenters in impressively graphic fashion, but it takes the arrival of the white adventurers to spur them into action.
The plot itself is fairly perfunctory, used to pad out the aspects of the film drawn and exaggerated from Climati’s previous work in documentaries, such as a shamanic ritual that cures a potentially fatal snakebite, and a bizarre moment in which a particularly inquisitive piranha decides to swim up the backside of a luckless local. These moments certainly add colour and it is a far superior effort to Cannibal Terror, the other release today in the subgenre from distributor 88 Films.
It’s difficult to recommend The Green Inferno with any real enthusiasm. It’s made with a high degree of competence and has a certain charming goofiness that makes it far more palatable than many entries in a subgenre known for its nihilism. It’s just rather dull, with indifferent performances and frequent narrative laziness such as there being no language barrier between the adventurers and the indigenous people. It may suffer from having been marketed as something it absolutely is not, but far better films have endured the same fate. It’s great that there are more and more genre films being rescued from obscurity, but some simply don’t merit the dedication.