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'Green Inferno' mixes social activist message with cannibalism

'Green Inferno' mixes social activist message with cannibalism
Still of Ariel Levy in "The Green Inferno." (Blumhouse Productions)

Eli Roth, director of the first two "Hostel" movies, finally sees his "The Green Inferno" arrive in theaters a year after its original distributor abruptly canceled the release.

The film is a case of contradictions: It proudly boasts people indigenous to the Amazon rainforest who've had no outside contact, only to exploit and depict them as cannibalistic savages. The movie doubles as a political and environmental allegory like so many horror classics but mocks student activists and makes victims out of those who attempt to halt the encroaching bulldozers. And though citations of 1970s and 1980s Italian cannibal films during the end credits suggest high-minded scholarship, the film gleefully revels in sophomoric cheap shots such as exposed genitalia and explosive diarrhea.

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The activists' ringleader, Alejandro (Ariel Levy), turns out to be a sociopathic cynic who recklessly jeopardizes the lives of idealistic liberal-arts students, pulling a publicity stunt in front of gun-toting militia while pocketing corporate money. Perhaps Roth intends the film to be a cautionary tale against the white savior, as the students' cannibal ordeal only inspires the martyrdom of Justine (Lorenza Izzo), the privileged Ivy League daughter of a U.N. lawyer.

The film is measured and executed effectively to satiate horror fans' bloodlust, yet its underlying messages are just so repugnant. Would Roth prefer deforestation and the extinction of Amazonian tribesmen?

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"The Green Inferno."

MPAA rating: R for aberrant violence and torture, grisly disturbing images, brief graphic nudity, sexual content, language, drug use.

Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

Playing: In general release.

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