Knock Knock

I’ve mentioned it before on the blog, but I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Eli Roth. I love his enthusiasm, and the films he makes are generally made with love and have solid ideas driving them, but the execution is almost always lacking and he seems to give up part way through and inject unnecessary humour. I have nothing against humour in horror, but his always falls flat. Knock Knock is a remake of the notorious, yet little known 70s exploitation film Death Game – but is it a film which allows Roth’s strengths to overcome his weaknesses?

The film begins promisingly enough – Reeves is playing a wealthy husband and father who lives in a post modern glacial home. One night, while his family is out of town, two unfathomably sexy young women knock knock at his door claiming to need help finding a party. One thing leads to another and before long we are treated to a sleazy threesome. In true Bunuel style, the girls don’t seem willing, or know how to leave – all the more troubling when neighbour Colleen Camp stops by disapprovingly and when the girls destroy some artwork in the house. As matters progress, the sleaze and nonsense increase to silly levels.

Although that promising start eventually dissipates into a watered down tables turned version of Funny Games, with a lot less to say, it’s still stupidly watchable in the same way most exploitation movies are. The cast is a lot of fun, even if it is a little cringe-inducing seeing some of the things Reeves gets up to in the movie. There are many moments when the girls’ plan could have been foiled or come crumbling down, but silly contrived circumstance gets in the way. I’m not sure what precisely the film is trying to say, but it comes off as both hating men and women equally while still glamourizing the hollow and violent nature of both sides. It doesn’t come close to being a horror movie, and it’s not particularly funny to be considered a comedy – exploitation and a mish mash of genre tropes mean it’s more like a sleazy morality tale where the lesson seems to be ‘Don’t Talk To Strangers’. Still, for all its faults, its more enjoyable than a lot of the po-faced horror out there, and it’s brief enough that you’re not sacrificing much by giving it your time.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Knock Knock!

The Green Inferno

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You know what the world needs? More cannibal movies. This mainstream return to this rarely spoken of sub-genre also heralded the return of infant terrible Eli Roth. Roth had not made a movie since 2007’s passable Hostel 2; that’s not to say he had not been busy – he had been writing, acting, and producing in the time between too. I’ve always had a hit and miss relationship with Eli Roth, and indeed with most of the new breed of horror directors. I wasn’t a fan of Cabin Fever – great idea but his handling of humour is, well, shite. I loved Hostel and while I enjoyed its sequel, it again sadly descended into farce for no reason. So, that was bad, good, bad – surely that meant I would enjoy The Green Inferno… right?

Wrong. The movie gets a lot right – it looks extraordinary and the gore and make-up are all wonderful to look at. The plot for me is neither here nor there – basically a greatest hits of films Roth has worked on or admired. Performance wise – no standouts or disasters. My problems are that it’s a little flat, there is again this immature need to insert comedy into it, and it really isn’t violent or bloody. I won’t say it’s frightening because I honestly believe this is a comedy at heart – an exercise in ‘lets point and laugh at these fools as they get picked off’ rather than something which makes me genuinely terrified at the predicament. You have to compare it with Cannibal Holocaust – that movie is truly sickening and while it also has laughs, it’s a film which will traumatize, scare, and scar. The Green Inferno is a film you’ll have forgotten about in a week.

The film begins with a couple of college friends doing a bit of Tarantino riffing – one of them – Justine – becomes interested in Social Activism thanks to a charismatic speaker. He wants to go to South America to protest deforestation. Justine says she wants to help, but is she there because she believes in the cause, because she wants to spite her daddy, because every entitled kid needs to go on a middle class backpacking adventure, or because she wants the guy? Whatever her reason, off she goes.

The group become viral online after a video of their almost fatal encounter with a local militia is uploaded – looks like their job has been complete, but on the way home their plane crashes deep into the rainforest. You know, the one they were trying to protect. Irony! Some of them are dead, some of them are not, but as they gather themselves a group of funky looking cats come out of the jungle and start eating and drugging the survivors. The rest of the movie deals with the survivors, caged, and watching hapless as their friends are killed, eaten, tortured, and subjected to various bodily examinations. Can they somehow escape this entertaining nightmare? Maybe, if only there was a fortuitously placed sympathetic child character running around…

I think Roth gets confused in exactly what he wants to portray in his films – he wants a message, he wants gore, scares, and laughs – great. His messages are often muddled or misinterpreted – Hostel had it, and The Green Inferno suffers from the same fate. The balance between horror and comedy always tilts towards the smiley side of the bridge and any horror is sacrificed in favour of gore. Getting this balance is always notoriously difficult, but there are easy solutions – don’t try to do both. Choose what you want – horror or comedy, and let the opposing side come naturally. It’s a movie about people eating people – perfect fodder for scares, but also perfect for some objectionable humour – it should come naturally so let it be. Critics reviewed the film with the usual platitudes about this being absolutely brutal and a gore-fan’s dream, but the reality is that the film is fairly tame; there is blood, but nothing to make you wince or marvel. The actual scenes with the tribe feel too short and I was readily anticipating the next gore scene rather than looking over my shoulder for someone with a fork in their hand and a ravenous look in their eye.

Having said that, Roth always manages to entertain. I tend to not have a problem with his characters or writing as the characters are meant to be caricatures – stoner, annoying one, other annoying one, heroine etc. I appreciate the throwback look, and callbacks to other movies – the cinematography and make-up here are the real winners ironically – you couldn’t pick a more beautiful place to be eviscerated and gobbled up. I’m still waiting for Roth to make something really special, and something all of his own. I’m hoping Hostel isn’t as high as he gets and I believe he has it in him.

Let us know in the comments if you have seen The Green Inferno and if it did sicken and disturb you, or if you found it boring and tame.