Into “The Green Inferno”: “Torture Porn” and the Sanctity of Human Life

the-green-infernoNOTICE: Graphic descriptions and content

This particular article has been on my mind for weeks now after seeing the trailer for Eli Roth’s, The Green Inferno, for the first time. Yesterday, I did myself the disservice of watching the “Red Band” (basically an R-rated preview) trailer for Roth’s new horror flick. I wish I hadn’t as the imagery was very graphic and was embedded on my mind for no short amount of time. The trailer was basically a scene from the film rather than a collection of clips from the whole film. Its purpose was to give the audience a taste of what was to come rather than to convey the story line. In this case, an adult man is laid on a stone surface and held down by natives. Once sedated by some sort of liquid, one of the leading native characters gouges the victim’s eye out with a sharp object before raising the eyeball up in the air, laughing, and then eating the eyeball fresh. In typical Roth fashion, the whole bestial scene is shown in full, gory detail.

Shock and “AWWWW GROSS!”

For those unfamiliar with Eli Roth and his work, he is probably most known for his role as producer and/or director of the Hostel series (2005 and 2007) and Cabin Fever (2002). It seems that it was the Hostel movies that propelled Roth into his fame as a genius in the realm of portraying and filming sadism, torture, and gory violence.

The Green Inferno is the latest release featuring Eli Roth as producer, director, and writer. It features a band of college students who, in an effort to appease their white guilt, venture into the Amazon in order to stop the rain forest from being destroyed. The tables turn as their plane crashes en route, leaving them easy prey for a tribe of hostile, cannibalistic natives. The majority of the film is then given to a series of scenes in which the remaining students are methodically tortured, killed, and eaten; most of which is shown on screen.

It seems that Roth has caught his stride in the “torture porn” world. As our culture becomes further and further desensitized to nearly anything and everything, Roth is unafraid to push further and further to achieve that “shock factor.” In an interview with Yahoo!, Roth made this statement regarding his new film:

“I want people to see The Green Inferno and say, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that in a movie theater before.'”

Sure, the serious movie critic reviews complain about a sloppy plot and a poor opening in terms of acting and dialogue; but that’s not why the masses will watch Inferno is it? One recent preview literally features no footage from the actual film, but instead is nearly a full minute of audiences reacting to what are presumably the more violent scenes all via “night cam.” The looks of absolute disgust and shock are nevertheless sprinkled with the occasional laugh, and that half-disturbed, half-amused look people get while they’re watching someone puke after doing the “milk challenge.” There is shock, there is disgust, but there’s also a clear element of enjoyment; inexplicable as it may be.

No Animals Were Harmed In This Film Depicting the Brutal Harm of Human Beings

Roth hails as an inspiration and catalyst for his love of filming violence and gore, a controversial film from the 1970s entitled, Cannibal Holocaust. Produced and directed by an Italian film company, this has been labeled one of the most controversial and violent films of all time. The film depicts such savagery as hacking limbs off, decapitation, flaying alive, crushing heads with rocks, and genital mutilation. BUT that isn’t why this film gained such a controversial outcry. The reason? Holocaust not only depicted but filmed the actual torture and brutal killing of real, live animals in several scenes. For that reason, Cannibal Holocaust is either banned or extremely edited in many countries.

Flash forward to Green Inferno, which Roth clearly identifies as a homage to Cannibal Holocaust. There’s an odd sense of awkwardness that is present when Roth has discussed Holocaust as an inspiration. Roth has been involved with PETA and other animal rights groups for a while now and I am going to give him the benefit of a doubt in saying that his affiliation with them is genuine and authentic. Even with that being said, there’s a huge slice of irony to be gobbled up (see what I did there?) here.

In an almost comical and disgusting blend of irony and hypocrisy, Roth has promised that not only will Green Inferno obviously not truly harm real animals; he has gone beyond to promise that not even a depiction of animal cruelty will be shown.

Why not even a depiction of such things? Because, the average American simply can’t stomach cruelty to an animal; even if it is simply a special effects depiction. Roth knows he treads on thin ice by associating with the likes of Cannibal Holocaust and that the animal rights community won’t stand for much in the way of glorifying or emulating the controversial film.

Good news! Devoid of even the depiction of animal cruelty, torture, or death, Green Inferno is free to depict the brutal torture and murder of no less than six human beings with all of the gory chaos shown in full detail for the eager audience to see.

So relax, there will be no uncomfortable scenes of animal cruelty for you to endure.

“Will leave viewers stumbling out of the theater”- Phil Brown, FANGORIA

“Swift to Shed Blood”

I have always been perplexed at Paul’s words in Romans 3 as he lists the indictments against sinful humanity. Quoting partially from Isaiah 59, Paul includes this charge: “They are swift to shed blood.”

Likewise, when I read the “invitation of sinful men” in Proverbs 1 saying, “Come along with us; let’s lie in wait for innocent blood, let’s ambush some harmless soul;” I have always come up short when trying to bring a contemporary application to this idea.

In a day when thieves and robbers would lie in wait behind cliffs and ledges for innocent passerbys (such as befell the man Jesus spoke of in Luke 10 in the parable of the Good Samaritan), it is easy to understand an ancient reading of these words. However, in preaching and teaching to the average, common person today, it is hard to directly apply such ideas as the average person isn’t necessarily characterized by violence or really even given an opportunity for such activity. At least I had thought this way until now.

In middle school, when a fight broke out I was the first little scrony white kid to go tell a teacher or resource officer. It always disturbed me to see other students clamoring about to get a good view of the violence, “ooooh”ing and “ahh”ing at every strike. In today’s society, that same eager desire to witness violence hasn’t changed. In fact, it’s only been strengthened by the presence of smartphones. Where once there was just a ring of onlookers watching the action, they can now capture it for an upload to youtube. Just search “school fight” and see how many smartphone-armed onlookers are gathered around.

My mind goes to the recent brutality brought to light through the several undercover Planned Parenthood videos in which the butchering and selling of unborn human babies is discussed with eagerness and complete composure over lunch and a glass of wine.

All around us is a culture of violence and death. It is a world that flinches at even the thought of harm coming to animals, but will dish out a quick fifteen bucks to watch human beings being torn apart, sexually mutilated, and eaten alive.

Blood Thirsty

The brutality of Roth’s genre is not new to humanity and I do not mean to make it the epitome of violence and blood-lust. But his ironic connection to animal rights and a cult cannibal film that all but destroys animal rights while taking great pride in his ability to depict the gruesome torture and murder of humans, makes this commentary worth while.

I’m sure there are some ill-attempts at nuance when it comes to social commentary in the Inferno. White guilt, deforestation, colonialism, social ethics, and much more have been touted as the message behind the madness. However, in the end, people are not going to see Green Inferno as a commentary on social ills and environmental concerns. People are going to see this film as a shocking, terrifying, disturbing, just-in-time-for-Halloween good time.

At the end of the day, we’re not much better off than the ancient Romans who relished a slow, brutal kill in the arena. The Romans didn’t think much of their escapades because they were utilizing worthless slaves and criminals. We’ve done one better. We think we’re actually less barbaric because we’ve discovered a way to shockingly brutalize, torture, and kill human beings for enjoyment without actually harming anyone. It’s called “movie magic.” And instead of sadistic, psychotic emperors, we have visionaries like Roth to entertain even the darkest corners of our fallen imagination.

Redeeming Sick Times

It may sound cliche’ by now, but as Christians, we believe that all human beings are created in the image of God. As such, it is a direct assault on the character and image of God when another human being is harmed.

What does it say about us, then, that we live in a culture that finds the depiction of animal cruelty offensive, but the depiction of brutal human torture and murder “shockingly fun and entertaining”?

What does it say about us that we silently pass over videos discussing the actual murder and dismemberment of the most helpless and innocent among us; the unborn?

It’s an indictment against our culture, an indictment against us as individuals, an indictment that came so long ago through the Apostle Paul and King Solomon.

But it is not an indictment without a remedy.

Thankfully, there was one who suffered a shockingly violent and bloody death for us. One who offers peace and love where there is nothing but violence and hate. That’s the one of whom Paul went on to speak in the rest of Romans 3.

Yes we are blood thirsty wretches who hate and are hated and there is indeed “no fear of God before our eyes” (Romans 3:18). But Paul speaks of a salvation that can be ours in spite of our filthy greed for violence; a salvation that comes through faith in Jesus Christ and what he endured at the hands of blood thirsty men like you and me.

It is a fallen, sick, and twisted world. We are fallen, sick, and twisted people.

Is there any hope for us?

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24

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