I thought this one was a direct remake of the seminal non-classic, and shame of all horror fans, Cannibal Holocaust, and the description said it was, but there’s no reference to that film in the credits or anything, and while the plot is essentially the same it beats it on several points. Plus it loses on several points as well. So if it was a competition neither film would be a winner. And neither would we.
Welcome to the Jungle is, in a nutshell, a found footage film about four friends who venture to Papa New Ginuea in search of Michael Rockefeller, of the American Rockefeller dynasty, who really did disappear in 1961, possibly eaten by cannibals. They hear from a friend of a friend that an old man fitting his description was seen with a lost tribe in the jungle, so set off to find him, interview him and claim the riches and rewards that would follow: hot tubs in every room, dwarves with trays of cocaine strapped to their heads, that kind of thing. Of course the important line these kids over look is possibly eaten by cannibals. I don’t know about you but the thought of being spit roasted, in any scenario, ain’t that appealing. I know people who feel different mind, so what do I know.
A lot of people hate the found footage genre, and that’s something I can understand, but I don’t have a problem with it myself. I find that as long as the characters can find a good enough reason to be filming all the horrors that unfold and then not go on about it, it can be an immersive way of telling a story. Of course, most of these films end with the final heroes being dragged away while the camera falls over and that’s not so good, but if they can be inventive enough along the way then that’s fine by me.
Welcome to the Jungle does pretty well on this count. The locations are spectacular, the Fiji landscapes, standing in for Papa New Ginea, totally draw you into a hostile environment. The characters come across a friendly village which looks like it was genuinely just shot in a friendly village, with kids running about excitedly and chickens clucking everywhere. The acting too is very natural, to start with anyway. The characters are fairly likeable while they’re planning their trip and getting drunk with each other. However once they get deep into their heart of darkness, presumably because it gives them something to do before the cannibals show up, they start hating each other, bitching and whining and fighting and taking the piss and oh God! Would someone just eat them already! I’m starving.
Also the camera work is woeful at some points. I know this is meant to be found footage so running along, shakey-cam is de rigueur, but there are some daylight shots that are so heavily backlit you can’t see a thing that’s going on. There is a difference between found footage movies and actual found footage, and that difference is that this is all fake and done by supposed professionals. So if a shot is really that awful could they not just do another take? Does it have to be so authentic that the audience is just looking at a white blob in the corner of a black screen? At least that isn’t too often, and in fact, nothing lasts too long because it is pacely edited with everything moving along at a decent lick.
It still takes forever to get to the cannibals though, which is really what we’re all here for isn’t it? And here is where the crux of the problems lie. Cannibal Holocaust did have a huge about of extremely unpleasant violence, but when you watch a film about cannibals you want to see some of the red stuff. Welcome to the Jungle has a girl with a bit of wood through her mouth and a pair of feet. It’s not enough. I think this kind of film really needs to push the limits of violence and horror otherwise what is the point? These charachters are meant to be foolish westerners who blindly wander into a natural world they have no control over, you can shoot all the natives you like with your Wallmart bought pistol but sooner or later they will surround you, stick you on a spike and have you for supper. Saying that, Cannibal Holocaust was a truly revolting film; I could live with all the human depravation, it was the animal murder I hated. Not done using effects but real life animals, they butchered and mutilated innocent creatures for the sake of “entertainment”. I don’t think that film should ever be accepted as a classic, and at least Welcome to the Jungle is a step up from that.
So maybe less gore all over is the price we have to pay if this is indeed essentially a remake of Cannibal holocaust in all but name. And it has some merit in it’s incresingly dark tone, with the characters floating down the river on rafts as the natives, painted half black, half white close in on their prey. Plus girl on a spike isn’t half as offensive in this version.
However (MASSIVE SPOILER AHEAD), at the end of the day this found footage movie still follows the modern, traditional, deeply unsatisfying ending of it’s genre: as the last survivor is dragged away, the camera falls over. Oh well…