You probably don’t know it, but Ruggero Deodato’s notorious CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST has served as an unambiguous influence on a new cinematic meal from producer Gale Anne Hurd. It’s called WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE, and if you run an IMDb search for it, you’ll hit a brick wall.
An intentional decision on the part of Hurd’s Valhalla Motion Pictures to build an air of mystery? Perhaps. Whatever its decision, JUNGLE was laid bare for attendees of the American Film Market currently unfolding this week. Accompanying notes that came with the screening indicated that the film is only available for international rights only, so someone here in the States is poised to release JUNGLE domestically.
Written and directed by Jonathan (THE PUNISHER) Hensleigh—Hurd’s husband, incidentally—JUNGLE prefaces its events with a small history detailing the true disappearance of Michael Rockefeller. What follows is the “found” video footage of a quartet of 20somethings who venture into the New Guinea jungle in search of Rockefeller over 40 years after he was reported missing during an excursion in the region.
Fango popped in on the screening yesterday and was nonetheless unimpressed.
Hensleigh utilizes the “home movie” narrative to the fullest degree, recalling the likes of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, except there’s very little nighttime photography. Instead, most of the action is set during daylight and carries that same sickening visual style that will make those prone to motion sickness retch. By the time JUNGLE reaches its hour mark—by which point nothing truly significant has occurred—you’re primed for the cannibal atrocities to follow.
Thankfully, Hensleigh pulls no punches in this department and, with a brave hand, offers his take on HOLOCAUST’s now-infamous body-on-a-spike image. The vérité approach does much to lend the violence an unsettling authenticity as well.
Kudos to Hurd and Hensleigh for attempting to revive the cannibal subgenre. However, when this JUNGLE adventure tries to go for the throat, it pushes you instead to chase a bottle of aspirin with a dose of Dramamine. Granted, cannibal cinema history isn’t exactly known for its portrayal of sympathetic thrill-seeking dopes, but at least HOLOCAUST and CANNIBAL FEROX offered many more ways to offend, disgust and entertain their viewers than what Hensleigh has conceived. Plus, when you go out using Guns ‘N Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” during the end credits, it’s a none-too-subtle reminder that everything you’ve just witnessed “wasn’t real,” as opposed to the HOLOCAUST’s questionable origins.