Friday, October 16, 2015

Worth Mentioning - There's No Saving This One

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody talks cannibals and SHOCktober shenanigans.


With the release of his 2002 feature debut Cabin Fever, director Eli Roth quickly became one of the biggest and most divisive names in horror. Over the next five years he directed Hostel and Hostel: Part II, produced 2001 Maniacs, contributed a faux trailer to the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino double feature Grindhouse, and his name was mentioned in connection to a bunch of other projects that didn't get off the ground, most notably one called Trailer Trash, which was going to be a feature composed entirely of faux trailers.

Since the release of Hostel: Part II in 2007, Roth has acted in a handful of movies, like Inglourious Basterds, Piranha 3D, and Rock of Ages. He has co-written Aftershock (which he also starred in) and The Man with the Iron Fists. He has produced several films - The Last Exorcism and its sequel, The Sacrament, The Stranger, Clown. He has directed the pilot episodes for Hemlock Grove and South of Hell. But he went six years without directing another movie.

Roth's return to directing features is his tribute to the Italian-produced cannibal films of the '70s and early '80s, most directly referencing Ruggero Deodato's infamous Cannibal Holocaust. The Green Inferno was a working title for that film, and is the title of a documentary that is very important within the narrative. I'm not a very big fan of the Italian cannibal movies, but if you want to see me go a bit more in-depth on them, check out this article: Cannibal Holocaust vs. Cannibal Ferox.

Despite not enjoying the type of movies The Green Inferno was emulating and paying homage to, I was interested in seeing what Roth would do within the sub-genre, and just glad to see him directing a new film. When horror fans were split on him back in the day, I was on the "I like his work" side of the fence. The wait to see The Green Inferno was a year longer than expected, after it ran into distributor issues, but it was rescued by insanely successful producer Jason Blum (the Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Sinister, and The Purge franchises) and finally released last month.

Roth's take on the "Amazonian cannibals" scenario, which he wrote with his Aftershock co-writer Guillermo Amoedo and which reunites him with several of their Aftershock collaborators, centers on a college student named Justine (Roth's Aftershock co-star and now real life wife Lorenza Izzo), who gets involved with an activist group on campus. When a company's bulldozing of the Amazon rainforest threatens to wipe out the village of a previously uncontacted tribe, Justine accompanies the group on protest trip that turns out to be much more dangerous than she bargained for.

The group manages to get the company to halt their destruction of the rainforest by chaining themselves to trees and equipment, but Justine is nearly killed in the process, and realizes that she was just being used by the group's leader because her father works for the United Nations. That's a fact that gets them out a scary situation with the company' security force, but won't be any help at all for her during what's ahead.

The group catches a puddle jumper plane out of the Amazon, but don't make it very far before engine trouble sends the plane crashing back down into the jungle. Several of the people on board are killed during the crash. Eight survive to crawl out of the wreckage, but most of them don't have very much longer to live.

Justine and her fellow survivors are attacked by the very tribe they had come to the Amazon to save. The tribe has been angered by the inhumanity of the people destroying their land and intend to get revenge on these outsiders that have fallen (literally) into their clutches. With no way to communicate that they are not the people who have been threatening their home, the group is completely at their mercy.

The captives are locked up together in a cage and the tribe proceeds to kill, torture, and mutilate them one-by-one, then cook their bodies and eat them.

Aside from the unfortunate, "never should have been filmed" animal deaths that the Italian cannibal films are notorious for, The Green Inferno contains many of the same elements as its sub-genre predecessors, but this feels much more tame. Roth has also loaded in some toilet humor and weed jokes. One girl has diarrhea in the corner of the cage while the natives laugh and wave the smell away from their noses. One captive is a stoner and plans to escape the village by getting the natives high. That doesn't work out for him at all. Roth's version of a cannibal movie is very silly, dumb, and frequently cheesy.

This never even comes close to matching the intensity of some the old cannibal movies, but I'm not sure it was ever intended to. You can't be the next Cannibal Holocaust with some of these comedic moments that The Green Inferno has, and it's clear that Roth always had a more humorous vision for his cannibal movie when he says that the thought that inspired him to make the film was, "Do stoned cannibals get the munchies?"

The Green Inferno answers that question, and it's ridiculous.

Roth does try to throw in some social commentary, but it's pretty muddled. He's making some kind of comment about activism, movements that don't accomplish much, being manipulated by people who have ulterior motives... I don't really know what he's trying to say, but I hope it doesn't boil down to the very dumb line he gives to Justine's college roommate early in the film.

The Green Inferno is entertainingly dopey and worth a viewing, but don't take it seriously, because it's not very serious.

And now, a SHOCKtober update:

Last week, my look at the movies being featured as part of the Final Girl blog's SHOCKtober event ended with October 6th's pick because the movies featured on the 7th and 8th were both remakes. They were the Franck Khalfoun/Alexandre Aja 2012 remake of William Lustig's 1980 grindhouse slasher Maniac and Lucky McKee's 2013 version of All Cheerleaders Die, a re-do of a story he had previously filmed on a micro budget in 2001. I don't want to discuss them too much, since they're potential candidates for future Remake Comparison Project articles, but some quick thoughts:

Maniac is an interesting new take on the concept, which is quite simple - a crazy guy goes around killing and scalping women. It sets itself apart from its predecessor by taking the very unique approach of being filmed almost entirely from the perspective of the killer. It works surprisingly well and is worth a viewing.

All Cheerleaders Die has a fitting title, as a cheerleading squad does indeed die in the film, only to be resurrected, via magical spell, with cannibalistic tendencies. There are some fun elements to this one, but I couldn't really get into it. Its tone and style just didn't appeal to me.


This stylish and unique vampire tale is set in the fictional location of Bad City, Iran, and until last Friday I was under the impression that it was filmed in Iran as well. As it turns out, it was made in California, but all of the dialogue is delivered in Persian, and director Ana Lily Amirpour - who made her feature writing and directing debut with this film - does a great job making the movie feel like it takes place in a city that doesn't really exist in our world.

Shot in beautiful black and white, the film centers on a low-key romance that develops between a young man named Arash, who is burdened with taking care of his heroin-addicted father, and a mysterious young woman. The girl that walks home alone at night, wearing a black cloak. This girl is a vampire, and although Iranian she's reminiscent of a character in a French New Wave film, or a Hal Hartley tribute to such, especially when she's dancing around her home in her striped shirt.

My favorite scene in the film involves the girl's home and her record player. Right after she encounters Arash, making his way home from a club in a Dracula costume, she takes him back to her place, where she puts "Death" by White Lies on (a song I know from the Jennifer's Body soundtrack). As the song plays, Arash and the girl slowly embark on their love story.

I really enjoyed A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, especially in the couple moments when it seemed like an adult take on Let the Right One In. I would have liked it even more if it had delved further into the emotional connection between Arash and the girl, but as it is it's a fantastic debut for Amirpour and a movie I will definitely be revisiting in the future.


I can clearly remember when Jaume Balagueró's Darkness first came out on video, and not because I enjoyed it so much that it had an impact on me or anything, but because I had been following its journey to video for years at that point.

When first announced, it seemed promising. A new horror movie starring Oscar winner Anna Paquin, who had just played Rogue in the X-Men movie, and produced by Re-Animator's Brian Yuzna. It was released in Spain, where it was filmed, in 2002, and Dimension Films picked up the U.S. distribution rights. And then Dimension left it on a shelf. After cutting the 103 minute film down to 88 minutes by removing not just moments of violence but also lines of dialogue concerning familial drama, Dimension finally released the movie on Christmas Day 2004, two years after it played in Spain. Bad reviews and the knowledge that the theatrical version was 15 minutes shorter than the director's cut kept me from seeing the film on the big screen, but I rented the unrated cut as soon as it became available. And I did not think it was worth the wait.

The story picks up forty years after seven children were abducted and only one escaped from their abductor(s), not knowing what happened. A family of four has just moved from America to Spain, where the father spent his early years and his own father still lives. As the family adjusts to life in a new home and a new country, the children - young Paul and teenage Regina - begin to notice that there is something very strange about their new digs. The weirder things get, the more it seems that something dangerous is going on with the adults.

I won't say just what's happening here, but when secrets are revealed it is pretty interesting and very dark. The problem is, the characters themselves are never interesting, so the situation they're in is never engaging, and it feels like the movie is just sleepwalking through its own story. I can understand why Dimension cut it down to 88 minutes, because at 103 minutes it's kind of tough to sit through.

I find Darkness to be quite mediocre, and if I hadn't followed its release troubles all those years ago I would have forgotten it.


Stopping to see a fortune teller during a night out on the town turns out to be a very bad move on the part of virginal young college student Alexandra (Michelle Argyris). During the reading, the fortune teller senses the presence of an unwelcome spirit... and Alex blacks out.

Over the following days, Alex is tormented by strange sights and sounds, and in bed she's visited by an aggressive unseen force that leaves marks on her. As Alex starts to display signs that her body is being taken over by a demonic entity, it is revealed that an ancient evil has chosen her to be its baby mama.

As if all this weren't enough, school has just started back up, Alex's grandma is fighting cancer, and her boyfriend is cheating on her with her antagonistic roommate. The girl is not having the best of times.

Devil Seed is pretty bad, but it's one of the most pleasantly entertaining bad movies I've seen in a while. It has absolutely nothing new to offer, and even copies some famous moments from supernatural horror classics - the possessed Alex urinates on the floor just like in The Exorcist, there's the priest encountering flies like in The Amityville Horror, etc. But if you want to laugh your way through a really silly movie, check this one out.

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