The Plot: Four youths set out on a trip from the Fiji islands to the New Guinea jungle in search of Michael Rockefeller, the son of a vice president who was lost in these jungles many years ago but who has never been found – and yet, continues to be spotted by the locals year after year. After gearing up they start their trip in jovial spirits, but once inside the jungle the four split up into two factions. Colby and his girlfriend, who both want to get up early and set out to use up as much of the day as possible – and Mike with his newly found girlfriend (also Colby’s girlfriend’s best friend) who simply wants to have a good time and party away the nights. The two groups start to grow tense and hatred begins to boil – but maybe, in these cannibal infested jungles, there might be something even worse than their own vapid threats to one another.

The Review: If I thought I would find myself writing up a positive review for Welcome in the Jungle, I probably would have viewed it long ago. Not that I don’t mind writing a negative review every once in a while, but finding the mood to watch a bad movie takes time. Coming into this, I was assuming that I was walking into a bland Cannibal Holocaust ripoff with no budget and horrible acting. Essentially every cannibal flick made in Italy aside from those made by Rugerro Deodatto. I was lulled into thinking this due mainly to the fact that A) this is a cannibal flick set in New Guinea told through the actors holding handheld cameras themselves and B) I saw a still from this scene back when I first ever read about the movie. So yeah, I had all the reason in the world to suspect a pseudo ripoff/re-imagining. Without a doubt, this film wouldn’t exist without Cannibal Holocaust but that’s a given. There are many nods to the cannibal subgenre of Italian cinema, and you just have to imagine that director/writer Jonathan Hensleigh is a pretty big fan of flicks like this. With that said, Welcome to the Jungle actually works due to the differences that it has from it’s Italian predecessors. It also shares some new weaknesses that those films didn’t have to worry about, but overall, I was shockingly surprised by this little film!

With no expectations coming in at all, I guess it’s easy to be shocked by any kind of content once you find it but I am still going to go out on a limb here and call Welcome to the Jungle one of the better cannibal films in the entire subgenre. I always throw slams at the cannibal genre, mainly because it deserves it, but having seen the good majority of them I will always keep coming back. From the schlock of Lenzi to the brilliance of Deodatto, the genre is either a big hit or a major miss for me. Welcome to the Jungle, well I hate to call it a “big” hit because I know some of my readers out there may not get as much out of it as I do, but for what it is Welcome to the Jungle (or Cannibals as it is listed in the opening credits) is a very technically sound cannibal film full of shocks and surprises, as well as a vehicle for some very nice character development as well as a few very neat twists on a style of cinema that many are taking advantage of right now. The Cannibal Holocaust/Blair Witch/Cloverfield use of handheld cameras being used by the main characters in an attempt to break down the walls between reality and fiction. Welcome to the Jungle however starts off from the very get go with our characters searching for the son of a Vice President who didn’t exist; and unlike in Cannibal Holocaust or even Cloverfield, there’s no retrieval of the footage scene or opening credits to explain everything about the footage or how it is we are now seeing. We are just presented a story, and lead to decipher what we may of it. What makes the film so different, so likeable and what earns my respect however – is also one of the more frustrating things about it. The film starts off with a spectacular set-up and some really great character development within the cast. However, once they are trapped within the jungle and the two pairs begin to divide and the factions are formed, the arguments will tear your mind into pieces! This segment of the film unfortunately seems to drag on forever, but it is within these plethora of annoying scenes and exposition that we learn so much about our characters. I also have this feeling, though I haven’t really read around on it, that many others are going to find one group more annoying than the others simply based on personality type. Now, I’m not much of a party animal kind of guy, so I was immediately drawn to the more “stuck up” of the two factions – but for others it may not be the same. I think the way the film seems to play off of its audience like this is truly a great, albeit in a completely frustrating manner, course of filmmaking.

Like I’ve said though, prepare to be frustrated once inside the film. It is not an easy film to swallow, but it is an incredibly polished entry into the cannibal genre. Featuring a fantastic set of actors who are at times frustrating, and then at times sympathetic. I was very impressed with the performances of all the lead actors, and as well as the lush photography within the jungle landscapes. Shot on location, every scene feature some truly beautiful backdrops… when they aren’t littered with skulls! Which brings me to the last thing most might be curious about: the gore. Well, this isn’t Cannibal Holocaust for sure. Sorry, no abortions or real animal torture! However there’s a good amount of the red stuff on hand and is a fairly gory little flick. More than I expected really, but not on par with classics of the genre. After all is said and done though, Welcome to the Jungle is an imperfect film that just so happens to be better than it ought to be. I definitely recommend it and give it four out of five, which is a most impressive accomplishment for a new film stepping alongside the pioneering greats!