Rated R and that's probably accurate. A lot of people are talking about how brutal this movie is and I don't deny that this is harder to watch than other horror movies. But you are mainly looking at one really upsetting gore sequence and a bunch of little things happening. Even the worst of it isn't prolonged so much as it exists. There's a lot of swearing and there are a lot of Neo-Nazis. But those Neo-Nazis are thankfully the bad guys of the movie, so take that in stride. There's also references to drugs.
DIRECTOR: Jeremy Saulnier
Okay, I'm really stressed out because I have too much on my plate. I might have to keep this shorter, but we'll see. I'm going to be cutting back on movies for the month because I have set myself too many goals and I know that I can't get to all of the things I need to get to. But that's besides the fact. Also, I hate that I'm still writing about horror movies post-Halloween. I feel like I should be getting into the wholesome stuff around now. I'm wearing a Santa Claus tie, for goodness sake.
I was always afraid to get around to Green Room. I knew that it was A24, which I love but I need to slow down on. A24, especially in 2015, almost prided itself on showing the stuff that other people wouldn't. I always liked A24 for its respect of genre storytelling, but kind of shirked away from the sense of unease that the movies allowed. Green Room, even though it's the one that I feel a lot of people whispered about, almost seems tame to the likes of Hereditary or Midsommar. (Did I just pick two movies from the same director? I think I did.) But Green Room is one of those liminal pieces. Yeah, it's horror because it's about survival and it does get brutal at times. But honestly, this almost reads more like a thriller. As much as my brain wanted to make the story more complicated, it is incredibly simple. (Remind me to talk about the need for Patrick Stewart's character in the movie. Got it? Thanks.) This is, honestly, the heroes were in the wrong place at the wrong time. For those unaware of the basic premise, a metal punk band unfortunately gets stuck doing a gig at a Neo-Nazi backwoods venue. They witness a murder and are held captive so they can't tell anyone what they saw. As a simple movie, it really works. Neo-Nazis are bad guys and its the job of the protagonists to kill the Neo-Nazis before they get killed. Easy peasy.
I'm going to gripe a bit about one of my favorite actors and one of my favorite human beings. I love Sir Patrick Stewart. He's so good and he does all of the genre things I like. Maybe that makes me a little bias. But the addition of Stewart makes the movie a bit confusing. Stewart plays the big bad. He's the guy who is pulling the strings here. He's doing an accent that --Lord knows I've tried figuring it out --isn't quite American but isn't quite British. Now, Stewart, per ush, brings a sense of grandeur to his performance. He's an older Neo-Nazi. He owns the bar that has everyone trapped. He gives the orders. But his character also talks like there's some kind of masterplan going on behind the scenes. The movie really reads as if there's this deep dive conspiracy happening behind the scenes. I'm going to say this might not be Stewart's fault. The dialogue he's given is oddly cryptic. He feels like he's a guy full of secrets and those secrets are going to pay off given time. Like, there's a part where the Nazis (I'm just going to call them Nazis from this point on) are going to rush in and Darcy, Stewart's character, gives them rules. I get the rules now are just to make their story seem believable. But also, why say it like that? I sometimes need a little handholding.
But what makes this movie so effective is that it almost strays from the format a little bit. Pat, portrayed by the late Anton Yelchin, even states this in a speech to Amber. He knows that he doesn't have the ability or talent to take on a whole bar full of violent Nazis. He may not know kung-fu, but he does know kar-azy. Most of the movie is regrouping in the green room. It's why the movie is called Green Room. If you wonder why that other movie is called Phone Booth, same basic premise. Every time that these characters take two steps forward, they take at least a step back. It almost gets a little depressing at times because each time they leave the green room, one of the more interesting characters doesn't come back. Soon, the movie almost becomes an exercise in lacking hope. One of the times that they leave the green room, they find the bar oddly empty. It's this whole thing to get dogs to eat the band members, but there's something haunting in the fact that the Nazis don't need to throw everything at them. Pat never really gets to do the whole Rambo sabotage because he's not good at that and it's not realistic for the sake of the movie.
Actually, that might be one of the more fun, but less accurate parts of the movie. For all of Pat's bluster about just going full ape on them without a plan, Pat and Amber are only successful when they hatch a plan to trap the Nazis in their underground meth (?) lab. (They may have said it was heroin. I'm really bad at identifying what drug is being used in any scenario. It's because I'm a sweet and innocent baby boy. Notice the lack of swearing? Totally on brand.) The odd thing is that Pat's speech might be one of my favorite moments. It's nothing special. We've seen this bit in movies before. It's a bit of a trope, so much so as Amber points out how this is the hype up speech in that moment. But the fact that the speech doesn't really connect to the trap kind of leaves this open area.
Maybe that is what might make Green Room forgettable. I liked it. I won't say that I didn't. If anything, it was pure adrenaline put into a movie. It didn't hurt that they were a metal punk band, lending a metal punk soundtrack. It's just that I always thought of A24 as thinking man's movies and Green Room is almost the opposite of that. It's filmed like a thinking man's movie. The cinematography and performance lend a sense of scale that the movie doesn't actually need. Honestly, I mentioned Rambo earlier. This movie almost deserves to look like First Blood. But it isn't. Instead, this is just running away from Nazis while taking people out along the way. There's some dogs that get killed because dogs aren't people and human life should mean more. But because it is kind of dumb and there is no other shoe to drop, it's almost too simple to be an A24. There's the attempt to show the story of the two Nazis trying to escape the life. But that's almost background noise. It just feels like the Nazis feel like they have things way too organized to just be Nazis. And the real reveal is that they are just Nazis. It's something I both love and hate.
I don't know who to recommend this movie to? I mean, my big takeaway is that it isn't nearly as brutal as everyone made it out to be. I feel bad for Pat's arm and really, that should be wrecking him far more than it did. But it would also be annoying to have Pat constantly holding back everyone considering that he's actually one of the survivors of the movie. It's better than people make it out to be and it's way less upsetting. You know who I should recommend this movie to? People who love to see Nazis get wrecked. I wish it was more Indiana Jones style, where Nazis look like incompetents. But this is a horror movie. Oh geez, I just realized what comparison this movie really deserves! It's just an Aliens film.
Think about it. The eponymous green room acts as a moonbase or the Nostromo. We have characters whose only goal is to leave this location with their lives. Then there are just a hoarde of quasi-intelligent deadly monsters who need to get dispatched in order to make their way out. If they touch you, you take a lot of damage. Ultimately, the trick is to hunt the creature that is hunting you. That's an Alien movie. Maybe that's why the movie works for me. This is all now forming into a debate about what constitutes genre, but it is almost an affirmation between the almost familial elements between horror and sci-fi. Alien is really well made sci-fi horror. But I always allocate it to the realm of sci-fi over horror. If I had to choose one, it's sci-fi. But Green Room has nothing of the bizarre. If anything, it prides itself on trying to tell a real world story, despite the fantastic events that happen in the movie. Is there a version of this in reality? I don't run in any circles that would be associated with Green Room. I couldn't tell you. But the beats are the same and those same beats have legs.
So I like it. I don't love it. I like it. Part it me watched it, looking at the clock because I was running out of time. I'm still running out of time, I guess. But I'm glad I watched it. It's not the completionist in me. It was the curious cat who wanted to watch this movie and now he got it out of his system.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.