Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Girl Next Door

       The Girl Next Door is a film about hidden horror in the suburbs during the supposedly more innocent tie of the mid-'60's. The film is based on the similarly titled novel by Jack Ketchum. The novel itself was inspired by the true life story of Sylvia Likens, a teenage girl who was held prisoner by her aunt, tortured, and murdered over a period of months in 1965. it is not a film for the easily disturbed.
       The story's main character is David. Sequences set in 2007 serve as bookend as the adult David reflects on how the experience affected him. David meets Meg, a young girl who has, along with her younger sister, are sent to live with a twisted woman named Ruth and her sons. Ruth allows the neighborhood kids to roam in freely through her house, smoke cigarettes, and drink beer. She belittles Meg and her sister while allowing her sons to bully them.
       David develops a crush on Meg immediately. While he comes and goes through Ruth’s house as the other other kids do, he becomes concerned by the increasing emotional abuse he sees Ruth and her sons inflict on Meg. After Meg reports Ruth to a cop for taking a necklace that was given to her by her mother, David comes to Ruth's house to find Meg tied up arms over head in the basement where she is subsequently stripped naked and left all night.
       So begins Meg's torment of continuously being tied up beaten, cut, burnt, and sexually assaulted. David suffers his own torment as he can do nothing but watch. Meg refuses David’s help in escaping out of fear of leaving her sister behind. Meg's torture escalates to the level of a mortal wound before David figures out a way to alert help. He ultimately cannot save Meg, but is forever compelled to do anything to alleviate his guilt as he grows older.
       The Girl Next Door is definitely a tough film to watch. I am curious who the target audience is supposed to be. There is no gore to speak of, but Meg’s torture is too gratuitous for a crime drama. The issue is further complicated by the sexual content. Blythe Auffarth, who plays Meg, was 22 at the time of filming, but she was playing a sixteen year old who is frequently nude, tortured, and sexually assaulted. The realization Meg is a minor only contributes to the discomfort.
       I do not think The Girl Next Door is a bad movie by any means. It is attempting to show the darker side of suburbia happening behind closed doors. It does so without resorting to the so called “torture porn' genre of horror movies like the Saw or Hostel series. For that I will give it credit. I am not sure I would consider The Girl Next Door entertaining, either. One viewing is going to be enough for me.
       Rating: *** (out of 5)                 

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Green Inferno


     It has been well over two years since Apocalypse Cinema was last active. I never intended for the blog to die off, but less than ideal circumstances—to put it mildly—helped derail a whole lot of things in life. These days, my life is patched up to a workable degree, so I am going to give Apocalypse Cinema another go. Of all movies to re-launch with, I start with a horrific cannibal flick.
      The Green Inferno is writer/director Eli Roth's homage to the cannibal splatter genre of films popular in the late-'70's-early '80's. Specifically, Roth had the infamous Cannibal Holocaust in mind, even going so far as to take the film's title from the fake movie being filmed by the characters in Cannibal Holocaust. The Green Inferno is far tamer. I wold go so far as to call it a borderline black comedy with splatter elements. My assessment may explain why many fans of Roth's work in the gore genre consider The Green Inferno his worst entry.
       The film centers around Justine, a naive college freshman and daughter of a United nations lawyer. Justine develops an interest in political activism because of Alejandro, a human rights advocate planning to lead a protest against loggers in Peru to protect n indigenous people. Justine joins in the protest, and nearly gets herself killed by a militia protecting the loggers. Justine is spared when Alejandro, who directed the group to film their protest with their cellphones, reveals who her father is. The militia backs down and the immediate international exposure forces fores the logging operation to stop.
       The action really begins on the flight back when the group's plane crashes in the Peruvian jungle. The survivors are captured by natives and carried by boats to their village. The group quickly realizes this is the tribe they were trying to save. Because the group is wearing the logger uniforms they donned in order to sneak onto the logging site, the tribe considers them the enemy. The tribe is also cannibal.
     What I just laid out for you is the first two-thirds of the film. The pacing of the story is incredibly slow, especially if you are watching for the gore. There is none to be seen until nearly the film's climax.
       For full disclosure, I m not a huge gore fan. I will watch these kind of films, but I do not care much for any one to top any I have already seen in terms of gruesome content. But even I was surprised by how tame The Green Inferno was in terms of actual cannibalism. The most horrific scene occurs right after the group's capture when the chubby, most sweet matured member is selected for a celebratory feast. After he is tied to an alter, the Tribe Elder cuts out his eyes an tongue while he is still alive screaming and eats them raw before decapitating him. While there are some bloody and shocking moments later, nothing comes close to our introduction to the tribes cannibal ways. One cannot make an effective gore film when the bulk of the gore steadily goes downhill as the film progresses.
     What you do get is a lot of comic relief as though events might actually be too excessive for the audience. Some of the comedy is cringe worthy. One of the girls in the group suffers explosive diarrhea while they are all imprisoned in a bamboo cage together. Others were all right, such as when the tribes gangs up on one of the group who escapes and eats him raw. A little girl about four or five runs out from the crowd carrying the legs leg severed below the knee.
    If anything baffles me about The Green Inferno, it is the focus on the main character's peril. She joins the protesters because she feels strongly about female genital mutilation rather than the environmental cause of saving the tribe. So naturally, the Tribe elder wants to perform FGM on her so she can become a “real woman.” Justine is virtually never under the threat of being eaten and she is the only non-villain in the group to survive. Alejandro is actually a rug dealer paid off by a rival logging company. Justine laves hi to the tribe's mercy as she escapes with the help of a young boy who develops an infatuation for her after she his first imprisoned.
 
     Who could blame him? Lorenza Izzo, who plays Justine, is gorgeous. She spends a decent amount of the clix in skimpy native wear. Roth married Izzo a year after shooting the movie, so he knew the score. The lady is a keeper!
       I have not addressed the major them of the film's criticism of uniformed activism.  Such a subject flt better suited for my main blog Gods & Monstrs. Click over over here to read The Green Inferno and Uniformed Activism.  Reading the post is not necessary to appreciate this review, so it can be skpped if you prefer.  
     The Green Inferno is frivolous entertainment for those who can take milder gore. Most every fan of the splatter genre out there dumps on the movie for being too tame. But I do not base my reviews on whet other people think. So you will just have to decide whose taste you generally align to figure out if you want to sit through The Green Inferno.
       Rating: *** (out of 5)