Monday, September 28, 2015

The Green Inferno (2015)

Nothing makes a film more desirable to see than having it unreleased, shelved indefinitely, or even banned.  In the Horror genre, this has worked out quite well, generating a buzz that almost ensures fans will be there once a film finally sees the light of day.  The most recent examples of this would obviously be Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses (filmed in 2000, dropped by Universal, picked up by MGM and then subsequently dropped, only to be finally released by Lionsgate -- and make them a ton of money -- in 2003) and All The Boys Love Mandy Lane (filmed in 2006 and finally released in 2013).  In terms of being banned, pictures like Faces of Death and Make Them Die Slowly ("Banned in 31 Countries!" as its poster swore) played up that angle which certainly helped put butts in theater seats and definitely made me want to see them on video back in the day! 

In short, it all goes back to that primitive instinct of wanting to experience something that's been deemed forbidden.

When Eli Roth announced that he was making a film that was essentially a love letter to the Italian Cannibal subgenre of such classics as Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust and Umberto Lenzi's Cannibal Ferox (the aforementioned Make Them Die Slowly has many titles depending on which country you're in), there was immediate buzz.  Personally, I was interested to see a film like those listed actually playing at one of the mega movie theater chains in the US...I didn't think it was possible!  When the film encountered distribution woes, its buzz only increased.

Filmed in 2013 and finally just released this past weekend, Roth's The Green Inferno tells the story of Justine (expertly played by Roth's real life wife, Lorenza Izzo), a college Freshman seemingly trying to fit in with the local group of political activists on-campus. The basic plot is that the group of activists blindly follow a charismatic leader who fancies himself as the next Che Guevara (though he's more Jim Jones than anything) literally right into the line of fire to expose big industry's murderous effect on primitive, indigenous tribes in the Amazon.  The kids in this film aren't so much "tree huggers" as they're "cause huggers". 

Naturally, that's only the first half of the film; things soon spiral out of control as members of the group are captured by an indigenous tribe, where they're forced to stay for dinner...and breakfast...and lunch.  Sorry, the pun had to go somewhere!  

Roth famously cast a real-life Peruvian tribe that had never been filmed or photographed -- this only added to the maddening realism of the film, coupled with the fact that most of the trained actors are relative new faces.  While Cannibal Holocaust had its pseudo-documentary style benefiting its believability and strengthening its impact, Inferno's most effective strengths lie in its casting decisions.  It would have been much more difficult to believe someone like Brad Pitt was being eaten alive by a cannibal tribe, ya know?

Special effects duties are masterfully handled by Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger, expertly portraying the on-screen carnage.  Not gonna lie...there are some truly brutal and nasty bits in this film, although seeing Nicotero and Berger's names in the opening credits made it a little easier to separate the onscreen carnage as fictional, whereas both films from Deodato and Lenzi surely had shoestring budgets, making their gore all that more impressive and shocking ("did they really just kill that actor?"). 

Also, like any Eli Roth film, there is an abundance of his trademark black humor . . . several hilarious bits and one-liners carefully break the tension during some of the most disturbing sequences!  In fact, one particular kill even treads levels of absurdity reached previously by Monty Python & The Holy Grail!  In terms of the film's violence, as brutal as it is, it's difficult to take seriously and be offended by because it's so over the top.  Truthfully, the most shocking moment in the film -- which genuinely made me jump -- occurs near the end and recalls Carrie and Friday the 13th.

Another interesting element in line with the film's humor is its constant poking and prodding of social justice warriors and the need to find a cause to rage against on college campuses.  As someone who was bored to tears by the on-campus activists while attending Rutgers, I found this angle to be extra humorous!  In fact, this is where one of The Green Inferno's most terrifying ideas comes into play; never mind the rampant cannibalism and savage blood-letting, the scariest part is how easily some people can forget their principles, no matter how much their gut is telling them they're making a bad decision...they still blindly follow and make that bad decision, all in the name of an attractive person or some radical cause.  The entire first half of the film before the kids get to Peru has that sense of dread in the form of a knot in the stomach screaming "this is not going to end well!"

If you're an Eli Roth fan already, you will love this film.  If you've never seen an Italian Cannibal film and had no desire to, this probably won't change your mind.  If you're a Horror fan though, your curiosity surely has to be piqued.  See it!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Somebody Please Tell Me WHY?!?!

Earlier this week, someone asked me, "Why do you like scary movies?"  Even though this was a question I attempted to answer when I started this blog, I still don't think I've come up with a definitive answer and, obviously, I couldn't really give a clear answer when that question was thrown at me.  Sometimes, it's as simple as "You can't understand it if you're not into it."
This pic says a couple of things about me, don't you think?
For me, that's like asking some of my friends "Why do you like football or other professional sports so much?"  In their cases, I'm sure it was something that was passed down from a parent, uncle, older brother, etc and more of a family tradition.  In my case, that'd certainly be true since I've got fond memories of watching, not only horror movies, but movies in general with both of my parents; in fact, some of my earliest memories revolve around movies or television.  Hell, that could even be why I love pizza so much, as a lot of my favorite childhood memories revolve around Pizza Friday at my house!  Before I was even born, when my parents were still dating, they often went to see horror movies like Dawn of the Dead, Silent Scream, and Friday The 13th!  This stuff is in my DNA!  Maybe if my dad had a football in the house while I was growing up, this blog would be dedicated to something entirely different, eh?

As with any bands that I find myself getting into, I feel the need to learn as much about "it" (whether it's a band, tv show, or a movie) as I can . . . this includes behind the scenes stories, photos, making-of's, meeting the cast and creators, and if possible, visiting the locations where said movie was made!  Deep down, I think this sort of "expert" mentality goes back to my childhood, being an only child and often times getting the short end of the stick from others . . .

In my early grade school years, I remember trying to be like my buddies and getting into some recreational sports; T-ball and soccer were my choices.  I hated both.  I hated the practice part and, basically, just wanted the glory of winning . . . never cared much for learning the rules of the game or any of that jazz, ya know?  Same thing in the 6th grade when I joined the school basketball team -- I wasn't very good and, no thanks to my team mates, I found very little encourgement to improve my skills.  I'd jump on a couple other bandwagons in the latter part of elementary school as well; for some reason the Miami Hurricanes were a "thing" at my naturally, I had a t-shirt with their pelican mascot on it (though I remember the thing being a bit too tight on me).  Of course, you couldn't grow up in the early 90s without Michael Jordan fever and EVERYTHING was Chicago Bulls . . . so naturally, I had a Chicago Blackhawks hat that I wore pretty frequently.  Never saw a single game back then as a matter of fact!  Who knows, maybe I was predicting my future of eventually moving to Chicago and the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup a few times once I became an Illinois transplant! 

I remember this day vividly...that's the smile of a kid who's trying to fit in.
Looking back, perhaps there was a even a deep-rooted sense of being left behind that made me not want to tag along with what everyone else was into.  Being that I wasn't familiar with the rules of a football game, didn't know any professional skateboarders outside of Tony Hawk, and wasn't able to tell the difference between the members of the Wu-Tang Clan, I'm sure there was an unwritten attitude of "Alright then...forget that shit!"  Today, it's Fantasy Football picks...I scratch my head on how that stuff works.  Could I have taken the time to learn these things?  Probably.  Were they my ultimate interests or would I just be trying to fit in?  Absolutely the latter. 

Not sure what I was going for with the hair here...
Oh wait, this was it!
However, when it came to liking movies and horror movies . . . I was the king of my domain.  And that fact was comforting, acting as a suit of armor, protecting me from the mixed feelings I was experiencing, but not yet being able to fully vocalize until just now.  Perhaps Freddy and Jason slicing and dicing random teenage stereotypes helped to voice the feelings I was experiencing.  Of course, being on the verge of puberty didn't help matters about trying to find your identity!  On a side-note, when Black Sabbath were inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame in 2006, Metallica's James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich were on-hand to do the honors.  During Hetfield's speech, he got choked up when he described how the doomy, monstrous guitar riffs lived inside of him, speaking the feelings he couldn't find words for, and helped crack the shell that he found himself stuck in at an early age, helping him find his own creative voice.  That totally resonates with me when it comes to horror movies and, ironically, Metallica's music even!  My grade school class was small...we had the brainy kids, the skaters (my friends), the nerds, the jocks, etc.  Now, after a couple years of half-heartedly chasing trends, I'd found my own identity.  I was the Monster Kid (and "Metallica Bob")!  Nerdy or otherwise...I was me.  I found myself just in time for high school, so I didn't have the same hellish experiences in grades 9 through 12 that a lot of other people talk about. 

While my friends were out doing BMX or skateboarding, I'd be tucked away in my bedroom watching my other friends like Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, or hordes of zombies or aliens.  That kind of stuff was as cool to me as skating a half-pipe may have been to my buddies!  The heroes on my bedroom wall were Indiana Jones, Freddy Krueger, Rambo, and Metallica. 

Granted, at that time -- obviously pre-internet -- my fandom was a pretty isolated experience.  Outside of my older cousin Tim, there really wasn't anyone I could "talk shop" with except for a couple of buddies who liked Army of Darkness, Aliens, and Predator

As I got older, I realized that being a horror fan is actually pretty communal.  Through posting on message boards to meeting up with like-minded folks at conventions, I've made a lot of friends around the world through our mutual love of all things morbid and scary.  That's the thing though, being into horror movies is, nine times out of ten, just one of the many things that we can connect on.  We all enjoy this stuff for different reasons; some of it is from a technical standpoint on the special effects or story-telling/filmmaking, some of it might be a childhood nostalgia, and some of it might even be a fantasy element that acts as a cathartically, soothing alternative to whatever is going on in daily life. 

On the surface, being into this stuff is pretty nerdy . . . but what exactly is "nerdy"?  Is knowing every tiny detail about the three different "main" cuts of Dawn of the Dead or being able to recite every line of dialogue from Aliens any nerdier than knowing all the stats on Eli Manning?  I think not.  Collecting DVDs/blu-rays and movie posters isn't any different than collecting baseball cards (in some sense, both hobbies are just as expensive, too!). 

Today, I thrive on talking about horror with my friends either on-line, in person, or via almost daily text messages like "Dude, ever seen this movie?" or "Dude, check out what I just picked up!"  I love being thought of as the horror or movie guy to my friends outside of that smaller circle.  Like I said before, it's just me. 
While this pic is a bit old, it still personifies me to this day.