Dir: Eli Roth
Star: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Daryl Sabara, Kirby Bliss Blanton
A homage to the Italian cannibal movies which briefly flourished around 1980, you can’t help wondering – why bother? It’s not a genre for which I hold any candle, and doesn’t seem to be one exactly being sadly missed, or crying out for resurrection. That said, this is at least rather more self-aware and less hypocritical than its forefathers. It does have much the same basic story: a group of smug Westerners go into the Amazon, and discover that the friendly natives would love to have them for dinner. Slight variation here, in that the buffet is in the form of students, protesting the exploits of those nasty multinationals in the rain-forest. The “irony” here, rather than the “Who are the real savages?”, being that it’s the people they’re protesting against, who are their only hope of rescue.
That’s a nicely anti-liberal moral I can get behind – along with the concept that there are perhaps some indigenous tribes who don’t deserve to be left in peace. But that aside, there wasn’t too much here to stick in the mind. Outside of one guy whose count of limbs is reduced from four to zero in an extended sequence, there wasn’t an enormous amount which I’d have classed as particularly extreme: That Scene in Bone Tomahawk [and if you’ve seen it, you’ll need no more explanation] was far more brutal than anything Roth could produce. Admittedly, I’m not certain if the version I saw – which came with French subs for the Spanish-speaking parts – was uncut, but I believe the full version received an R-rating from the MPAA, which wouldn’t seem to indicate it being out there on the bleeding edge. You clearly need to try harder, Mr. Roth.
The lack of impact is perhaps in part due to the characters on the receiving end being largely unlikeable. Not that this is strictly necessary for a jungle holocaust, as Aguirre proves – but the gap between Klaus Kinski and the guy who used to be in Spy Kids doesn’t need much pointing out. The film leaves some areas unexplored; for instance, what if the cannibal priestess actually turned out to be a previous captive? There are hints at this, with the heroine (Izzo, who is now Roth’s wife) apparently being “groomed” as an acolyte, yet this is discarded later, to make way for more munching and cut-aways of the captives looking suitably appalled. That’s probably more emotion than the audience will manage to squeeze out.