Green Room

May 1, 2016 at 4:56 pm | Posted in 2016 | Leave a comment
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Jeremy Saulnier is a relatively young director who began his transition from cinematography to director and writer with his 2007 film, “Murder Party.” That title tells you something of his interests and he has been true to them in the 3 films he has written and directed thus far. After his first film, he returned to cinematography for another 6 years, before releasing the 2nd feature film, “Blue Ruin.” “Green Room” is now his third. I think I smell a trilogy here. I mean you can’t name one movie “Blue Ruin” and the next one “Green Room” without having some sort of sequence in mind. Perhaps we have a “Red Rum” or “Purple Rain” to look forward to. Here, Saulnier shows his cinematographer’s roots, as he has created the perfect visual set for the tension he intends to build. Four band mates, looking to make quick cash so that they can get home after a disastrous tour, agree to perform at a skinhead gathering. Let’s just say things go wrong, and they end up trapped in a green room. The group of young actors are mostly unknowns, with the exception of Anton Yelchin (who plays Chekov in the current spate of “Star Trek” films) and Alia Shawkat (who we all know as Maybe on “Arrested Development”). They all do reasonably well at playing terrified or terrifying, as need be, and there is plenty of opportunity for both. Once the ball gets rolling (maybe 20 minutes into the film), the anxiety ratchets up quickly and doesn’t abate. The story unfolds with a gruesome cadence: sudden bursts of horrific violence followed by retreat, reassess and more anxiety. This is the dance the film does for the remainder of its 90 minute run time. And, I should note that those bursts of violence are very graphic, often involving things like machetes and vicious dogs. Oh, and one more thing worth mentioning: Patrick Stewart plays the leader of the white supremacists. He brings a cool-headed malevolence that is much needed. He serves to slow down the impending violence, while also increasing our anticipation for it. All of that said, this was a film that worked very well at being what it was, which was a horror thriller. However, it had nothing more below its surface. None of these characters had any depth or any reason for us to care for them. As a result, the deaths may have made you look away but they were unlikely to make you care. The action unfolded in a steady stream and I was on the edge of my seat for much of the movie. I was never bored but I was never fully engaged, either. I get a sense that Saulnier wants to do something more than just make b-movies. He has an aesthetic to his work that suggests he wants to say more. He just hasn’t quite figured out how to say it yet.

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