Movie Review : Green Room (2016)
American film director Jeremy Saulnier is perhaps best known for successfully financing his a movie through Kickstarter because he didn't feel like begging arrogant studio executives and making artistic compromises. Blue Ruin turned out to be miserably bleak, yet visceral and elegant. It showcased Saulnier's ambitious vision and turned him into somewhat of a folk hero of the internet age. Green Room faced a world of unfair expectations from the get-go and while it probably won't be remembered as such, I believe the punk rock survival horror movie is his best work yet. Green Room is a fierce and claustrophobic thrill ride that's unlike anything you've ever seen before. Jeremy Saulnier doesn't fuck around.
Grab your raincoat because this one's messy!
The Ain't Rights are an idealistic and starving punk rock band with strong principles of artistic integrity. They have no social media presence, few recordings and believe that music is something to experience live rather than purchase and listen to. This is, of course, terrible for business so they live from gig to gig and play for whoever pays them. That leads them to a remote skinhead bar right outside Portland. The gig goes as antagonistically as you might expect until guitarist Pat (the late Anton Yelchin) unfortunately stumbles upon the murder of a young skinhead girl while retrieving his bandmate's phone. Amber (Imogen POOOOOTS) begs him to call the police, shit hits the fan and the band is trapped in the back room by murderous skinhead looking for quiet and creative ways to get rid of them. And they all involve murder.
My favorite thing about Green Room was the deconstruction of slasher movies stereotypes. Jeremy Saulnier resuscitates this dead subgenre of horror by openly challenging its rules: there is no one iconic maniac, but a whole bunch of them *, they aren't masked, their identities are known, they're acting rationally rather than on murderous impulse, yet they take our unfortunate punk rocker down in similar fashion than Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers would've. The protagonist party isn't a bunch of horny teenagers either. They're smart, yet ill-equipped physically and emotionally to face such violence and adversity. There are a lot of survival horror elements to Green Room too. The Ain't Rights deal with (gruesome) debilitating injuries, craft makeshift weapons, find creative solutions to seemingly impossible problems and remain vulnerable throughout the entire movie.
While slasher/survival horror hybrids aren't exactly my thing, I couldn't help but admire Jeremy Saulnier expert storytelling. Green Room is an absolute live wire of narrative tension. There is this great ambush scene near the end where nothing is communicated to the audience through dialogue. All the audience has to figure out what's happening is an old paintball story told earlier by Anton Yelchin's character and this very typical horror movie scene where the roles are reversed. The hunter plays the hunted and vice versa. Anyone who has a horror movie culture gets exactly what's going to happen from the visual cues and Saulnier delivers in style. Green Room keeps you on your toes and always manages to elude your expectations. I believe any story can be gripping if properly told and Green Room is a shining example of that.
Green Room is a movie that challenges the tradition of slasher horror. It demythologizes the act of killing and gives it an ugly, yet thoroughly human face. Killing is not cool or satisfying, it's a mean of survival and that, I can get behind, narratively speaking. I am fostering a growing hatred of movies/novel which fetishize murder and Green Room is a direct reaction against this type of bullshit. It's an ultraviolent, uncomfortable movie that doesn't spare the audience's sensibility one bit and that I really liked too. It's a bit of an endurance run if gore isn't your thing, but it doesn't wallow into its own bloody ambition. Overall, I had a wicked good time with Jeremy Saulnier's Green Room and yes, I've enjoyed it considerably better than Blue Ruin although both movies are imminently competent. Jeremy Saulnier is the real deal. His movies are smart, passionate, visceral and accessible. Let's make this guy a rock star.
* Although if you want to consider Patrick Stewart an iconic maniac, be my guest. I'm not going to contradict you.