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11/19/07

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I heard about Welcome to the Jungle around a year ago, when it was playing some film festivals. It sounded intriguing and I made a mental note to see it when it was released. I'd completely forgotten about it when I notice the cover to the left on the shelf at Blockbuster. My first thought was, "What's this cheesy film?" a second passed by before an excited "Oh, yeah! I wanted to see this." forced my hand to pick it up.

The film starts with a blurb about the true story of Michael Rockefeller; how he was the richest and most famous person to ever go missing. We then go to the first-person P.O.V. of two Australian girls meeting outside an airport, they're old friends, but haven't seen each other in a while. They meet a couple of American guys who end up as their boyfriends. One of the guy's has heard a rumor about the spotting of Rockefeller in the jungles of New Guinea. Looking for some adventure and possible fame and fortune, the couples set off to search for him.

The entire film is captured first-person, ala The Blair Witch Project. What starts off as a light-hearted adventure, descends into bloody madness. There's been a bit of comparison to the Cannibal Holocaust, which is obviously influential, but it's not a straight remake, as some have claimed. Holocaust which is the most famous cannibal film of all time, started the whole concept of a documentary crew capturing their own deaths, but much of the film's footage is obviously third-party, ruining some of the effect.

Welcome to the Jungle sticks to that concept and there's hardly a false moment. They start in Australia, having some fun; they plan their trip; they arrive in New Guinea, run into a little trouble with some roadside militia, before trekking into the dense jungle. The dread of the film is built quite nicely, what starts as some innocent fun begins to slowly spiral downwards. The couples start to grate on each other's nerves, one couple is serious about their destination, the other wants to stay up late and party. Things reach a head, when the party guy steals a human skull from a native shrine. The couples split up soon after; each meeting with a gruesome fate.

While not a perfect film; it is an interesting and notable one. The mostly-amateur actors do a good, believable job. The film pulls off the tough concept of having to have the camera running for all the key moments, there were only a couple of spots where I couldn't buy into what was going on. The cannibals don't show up till the end, the film keeps them mostly hidden, adding to the suspense. The gore is pretty disturbing, which makes your imagination run wild with what happened to those who ran into the cannibals previously. One of the girl's fates is especially memorable, very reminiscent of the most famous death from Holocaust.

I'd highly recommend this film for anybody with an interest in horror films. Jonathan Hensleigh has written some big budget Hollywood stuff, and directed the remake of The Punisher shows off a whole new side; it seems like the extremely low-budget freed his creativeness. This film stuck with me for a few days following, which is really saying something, most films I start to forget the moment they end.


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