By James Hancock April 14th, 2016
I hate to start out the weekend on a slightly disgruntled dour note, but writer-director Jeremy Saulnier’s new film Green Room is not the tour-de-force of unbridled mayhem and carnage that many would have you believe. I would argue instead that it is a poorly written film with wooden acting that is masquerading as a movie that is far more hardcore than what we actually see on the screen. The premise is pretty simple and had a lot of promise. A struggling punk band takes a gig in a remote part of the Pacific Northwest that is owned and frequented by skinheads, white supremacists, and other political extremists who have a taste for aggressive music. When the band accidentally witnesses a murder, they find themselves under siege in the green room as those responsible for the murder try and cover up the evidence along with dispensing with any witnesses. Anton Yelchin plays the leader of the band while Patrick Stewart plays the patriarch of the local population. Prior to seeing Green Room I foolishly deluded myself into thinking I would be seeing something akin to John Carpenter’s low-budget classic Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), a film that has some common ground both thematically and in terms of scale. As is often the case, I could not have been more wrong. Neither shocking enough to appease fans of genuine grindhouse cinema nor well made enough to appeal to general audiences, I have a feeling that Green Room at best is going to play well with teenagers who want to dip their toes into the waters of graphic cinema without actually seeing anything that might upset them long term.
On some level I respect what the filmmakers were going for so I don’t want to go off on too much of a rant about all my petty grievances but I need to underline the one area where I feel this film specifically fails. When it comes to movies like this, I can handle bad acting, misguided attempts at humor, idiotic choices made by the characters, incompetent filmmaking technique, or basically any flaw one can think of as long as the film delivers on what we showed up to see, shock value. One of the reasons cinephiles voraciously consume the grindhouse and exploitation films of the 1970s to this day, movies like Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left (1972), is because they live up to their reputations. If I go to see a movie about psychotic white supremacists terrorizing trapped young hipsters, I expect to see something that will freak me out. The movie has one or two splashes of violence that received a gasp from the audience but nothing more extreme than can be seen on any given night with a show like The Walking Dead. In the absence of seeing something horrific that I have never seen before, I’m going to expect a well made movie. The filmmakers chose these antagonists for a reason but most audience members will likely walk out of this movie being utterly unimpressed by what skinheads are capable of. On the flip side, I was so annoyed by the heroes of the story that I was actually smiling like a psychopath when some of them starting meeting grisly ends. So it is safe to say, that nothing about this movie worked for me. I will always show up to support filmmakers who want to try and give us a good old fashioned, hell raising midnight movie experience, but Green Room lacks the courage of its convictions and in the end is nothing more than an overhyped forgettable mediocrity.
I am one of the Co-Hosts of Wrong Reel.