Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Welcome to the Jungle (2007)

Well, this isn't exactly how I wanted to get back in the game, but here you go.  A write up for a picture made within the last decade.  I'm not gonna lie.  I got extremely bored with the whole blogging thing.  If I could, I'd make my own website just so I wouldn't have to refer to myself as a blogger.  Unfortunately, I'm not that technically inclined.  On top of that, I couldn't figure out which direction I wanted to go in with this thing. I have no interest in discussing current theatrical releases.  I have no interest in writing proper reviews.  I enjoy reading reviews, but writing that shit just isn't for me.  But, that's exactly what I started to do.  Also, I was burned out...completely burned out.  Less than a year ago, I quit my second job and that helped a little, but not enough.  I was just mentally exhausted.  And, did I mention bored?  Getting rid of the second job was a good thing.  A great thing.  It just took me a while to get motivated to attempt this thing again.  I'm taking baby steps.  These things are going to stream out a little at a time, like urine from an infected tract.  Shake it off.  I'm determined not to burn out again.

Anyway, I'm back with a review of a picture from an era, an era I won't often be dealing with.  My heart lies with the 60s, 70, and most of the 80s.  Sure,  a more current movie may creep in every now and then, but don't count on it.  Unfortunately, my first write up is for just such a creeper.  It's also unfortunate that this picture is of the "found footage" genre, a genre that has pretty much run its course.  Welcome to the Jungle is the story of a couple of Australian girls who meet up with a couple of American guys while vacationing within a short boat ride of New Guinea (where exactly is never clearly explained or, more likely, I just hadn't started paying attention yet).  The foursome, after nights spent imbibing and fornicating, eventually become a pair of twosomes.  The annoyingly responsible pair (Mandy and Colby) and the obnoxiously enabling pair (Bijou and Mikey).  While at a bar, and drunk, they hear a pilot relate the story of how he saw a 70 year old white man amongst one of New Guinea's cannibal tribes.  Well, just so happens that back in 1961, 23 year old Michael Rockefeller (putting him at about 70 at the time of this picture) disappeared while canooing in New Guinea (true story).  Theories had him drowning, being eaten by a shark or crocodile, or being eaten by a local tribe.  Now add a new theory... that he was apparently made into some sort of white shaman and allowed to live out his days among them. The two couples decide to take their video camera into the jungles of New Guinea in the hopes of capturing footage of Rockefeller and selling that footage to a tabloid for millions.  It's a noble idea. 

Of course, this idea has been done.  Refer back to Cannibal Holocaust, Ruggero Deodato's 1980 film with essentially the same premise.  Deodato's film is infamous for its depiction of animal slaughter and realistically graphic violence.  Deodato was actually arrested at one point for having made a snuff film.  He was later vindicated when the cast came to his defense to show that they were actually still very much alive.  If there's ever a film where you need to take a shower afterwards, that's the one.  Welcome to the Jungle is not even close to being a film like that and, for that reason, feels slight.  A fine diversion for an hour and a half, but not much more.  It's easily forgettable.  A product of its time.

What Welcome to the Jungle does have going for it, however, is a couple of characters (in Mikey and Bijou) that become more unbearable with each passing moment.  I couldn't wait for their slaughter.  Unfortunately, it comes offscreen, after they wander off, drunkenly of course, from the other two members of their group.  We do get to see their leftovers, so there's something.  Bijou's remains are an (fortunately, or unfortunately) homage to a similar scene in Cannibal Holocaust, involving the suspension of a cadaver through a pole.  It's just a matter of which opening supports the suspension pole.  Sorry for the minor spoiler.  This version of girl on pole is much more family friendly than the Deodato version.  Of course no one gets out alive.  It's a found footage movie.

Mikey's character is a big problem.  At first I thought he was full of false bravado.  A typical preppy American.  Then he starts shit with a group of New Guinean youths, calls someone a "zipperhead", and tries to fight a policeman armed with an AK-47.  Empowered by booze, Mikey struts through the movie with a complete disrespect for everyone (including those in his group).  His demise, while welcome, is wholly unsatisfactory. 

The picture meanders along for about an hour.  After reaching the port of New Guinea, they acquire a van, and drive around for hours, relying on their GPS, and various travel advisaries.  One such advisary warns them of kids being planted in the middle of the road so men, armed with guns, can proceed to rob and likely beat the people in the car (sometimes to death).  Guess what happens about five minutes later?  Frustratingly, one of the girls is driving and refuses to drive around the kid for fear of hitting him.  Women drivers!  Get what I'm saying guys?  Lots of shit like this happens.  I expected a crocodile attack at some point based on all the foreshadowing croc talk, but I guess rigging something like that wasn't in the budget.  We do get a group of Christian missionaries in the jungle though.  Well, we see two of them and are told the rest of the group is a mile away.  Extras cost money, after all.  Mikey, predictably, makes fun of them.  At least it looked like this picture was shot on some sort of location.  I'm told Fiji.  A good vacation was had by all.

Besides being populated by cannibals, the jungle is home to another Australian.  Call him Kurtz.  He's a fat gas station attendant looking motherfucker.  He berates the kids when they mess with some sacred burial mounds or something.  Tells them to go back the way they came.  I mentioned this was a "found footage" picture right?  Well, we got one camera to this point and it's used pretty well.  The shakey cam usage seems authentic and is not overly distracting.  Lots of good shots of Mikey and Bijou frolicking through the jungle, making fun of Colby and the other broad - already forgot her name, rolling cigarettes, drinking all the booze, eating all the food, etc.  In other words, an hour of fun for the viewer.

The first reveal of a cannibal is matter-of-factly creepy.  I didn't even see the guy at first.  Then, Mikey pans the camera, revealing more.  By this point, Mikey and Bijou have completely left the other two behind.  They've taken a raft (someone just left it there, apparently) and made their way down a river.  Things end badly and then we switch to camera #2 (conveniently, the other broad had a spare in her bag).  Also, the cannibals have no interest in filming their deeds.  I don't know man.  This thing was ok.  Not every movie has to set the world on fire.  The acting was fine, for what they were asked to do (annoy the shit out of the audience).  I won't reveal what happens to Colby and the remainig girl other than to say they end up eating a "meal" with some "friendlies". 

Then they get murdered and eaten and some old white guy walks in front of the, now, unmanned camera.  How did this footage ever get found?  Why ask questions like this?  I'm sure the cannibals preserved the camera and kept it safe from the rain, other jungle elements, etc.  Maybe one of them got greedy and sold the footage to some grocery store rag.  Doesn't really matter and, to be honest, I'll forget about such questions as soon as this post is published.  If you must watch some cannibal fare, I'd suggest Cannibal Holocaust (as long as you can stomach the animal kills) or perhaps Umberto Lenzi's Eaten Alive (chock full of hilarious misogyny).  Both made in an era where you could show some actual nastiness while not hiding behind a lame gimmick.  Anyway, this was fun (the write up).  Maybe I'll do it again some time.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Sir. Bravo.


Mr. Anderson said...

Welcome back! You're return is both incredibly fortuitous and completely unexpected! And a good review to boot!

Ruth Ricker said...

Any review that contains the phrase "Refer back to Cannibal Holocaust," is a winner in my book. I'm glad you're back, Brian.

By the way, anyone who names their daughter "Bijou" is just asking for her to end up dead on a pole.

brian said...

"anyone who names their daughter "Bijou" is just asking for her to end up dead on a pole."

Don't tell that to John Phillips.

Mr. Anderson said...

Bijou Phillips isn't dead on a pole? Eh, nobody pays attention to her anyway.

Unknown said...

Now that your writing again, I can actually tell people I've started reading again. My strike is over!

Opinioness of the World said...

Women drivers?! Boo! But you're back!!! Yay!!