TIFF ’13 – Day 4: Midnight Middling

The Green Inferno.
The Green Inferno gives “strawberry blonde” a new meaning.

One of the most popular programs at TIFF every year, Midnight Madness gathers most horror films included in the festival. Some of the most remarkable titles to premiere in this section are Reservoir Dogs, The Inside, Borat and The Raid.

This year the program is not looking great. Some of the big titles have been disappointments (All the Cheerleaders Die) and the lesser ones lack that je ne sais quoi to be memorable. Here are a couple of examples.

The Green Inferno (USA, 2013): There’s no point in denying Eli Roth’s talent to make us squirm. His film Hostel even transcended the gimmicky setup and delivered a clever critique of the perception of Americans abroad. The Green Inferno (Roth’s first film as a director since 2007) seems to retread the same topics, with the assistance of the grindhouse horror classic Cannibal Holocaust.

Hoping to alleviate her liberal guilt, pampered princess Justine (Lorenza Izzo, Aftershock) joins a group of activists to prevent the further deforestation of the Peruvian Amazon. Their plane goes down and the few who make it end up at the mercy (or lack thereof) of a tribe fond of cannibalism. One by one the crash survivors meet a grisly end, as becoming a human barbecue is not the only gruesome way to go.

While the second half delivers the thrills and gore expected from Roth (beware of cannibals with the munchies), the setup is unbearable: awful dialogue, bad acting, poor understanding of activism — the works. In addition, the director of Cabin Fever relies too much on the obscurity of Cannibal Holocaust, as he uses the 70’s cult classic as a blueprint.

Sure, Roth can construct a scene gruesome enough to make people walk out of the theatre, but it certainly feels like he hasn’t learned any new tricks in a decade. Two and a half prairie dogs (they ganged up on the third one and ate half of it).

The Station (Austria/Germany, 2013): Even though it borrows heavily from John Carpenter’s The Thing, The Station is one effective low-budget horror movie. Most of its charm comes from the practical special effects, which amp-up the visceral aspect of the film. Deep into the German Alps, a research station studies the effects of global warming on a receding glacier. The ongoing melting has liberated a unicellular organisms capable of melding diverse DNA — say a fox and a roach — and kickstart new species. Soon enough, a group of scientists and the perennially sauced caretaker find themselves battling an onslaught of monsters as diverse as they are hungry. To make matters worse, the minister of environment is coming for a visit and funding is on the line.

The Station makes an effort to be about a little more than monsters vs. humans. The caretaker is lovesick and would rather live in the middle of nowhere than face his wife. Also, the minister is a resourceful, tough-as-nails middle-age woman (imagine Leona Aglukkaq battling a mutant mountain goat). The ending is silly as heck, but the movie owns up to it. Three prairie dog/black widow hybrids.

Sidenotes:

* Had the chance to interview Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi) for barely five minutes, and we spent most of the time talking about the little-seen TV show In Treatment. In person, Khan looks a lot younger and fitter than the characters he plays.

* Failed to make it to Gravity AGAIN. Feels like a curse.

Tomorrow: I’ll be interviewing Voldemort and Mance Rayder. The fanboy in me is going insane with anticipation.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.