Directed by: Jeremy Saulnier
Run time: 95 minutes
The Lowdown: As a genre, survival thrillers tend to be better than most, if only because they are often fueled by a fast pace and white-knuckle suspense that can easily skip over more obvious plot holes that trip up traditional films.
But Green Room, the new survival thriller by the incredible writer-director Jeremy Saulnier, elevates the usual template in ways that breathe new life into the genre and set a high bar for future features to eclipse.
For one, the four members of The Ain't Rights, the fictional hardcore punk band that accepts a gig at a white supremacist watering hole, have a strong bond that Saulnier quickly establishes. When the proverbial poop hits the fan, the band members don’t turn on one another. They don’t exhibit selfish interests. They literally act as a unified front, even if that means some will sacrifice themselves so the others can survive.
What typically happens in a survival thriller is the group of people being threatened fractures and splits apart, usually following a disagreement about how best to act in order to survive.
But Green Room isn’t your typical survival thriller. Saulnier stages the action more like a western in that the bulk of the film takes places inside a literal green room – the private area reserved for band members and/or celebrities who appear at a venue – as well as within the white supremacist bar itself. The bulk of the film is a proverbial standoff where you don’t know what might happen next, which helps ratchet tension throughout.
And the antagonists are not the usual bad guys who seem to always be one step ahead of the protagonists. They’re uber-bad in that they are neo-Nazis with little regard for anything or anyone they believe to not be supportive of their cause, but in Green Room, the majority of the bad guys are acting out of desperation to appease their leader (the great Patrick Stewart, playing against type) and to hide a murder by one of their own that could bring undue attention to their operation.
Green Room also stands out because the neo-Nazis are more prone to use hunting dogs to stalk the band members and the band members have to improvise to find any weapons they can use to defend themselves. Once they find weapons, and go on the offensive, Green Room continues to surprise as the more capable and violent of the potential victims is not who you would immediately suspect.
Green Room has the unfortunate timing to arrive just weeks after the untimely death of lead actor Anton Yelchin, which makes watching the film extremely bittersweet and difficult at times. Yelchin was an amazing character actor who was capable of fully embodying a variety of different personas, including Chekov in the rebooted Star Trek trilogy, and he is completely believable as a young musician fully immersed in the punk rock aesthetic.
So far this year, the number of standout releases has been surprisingly light, but Green Room is an instant reminder of the power of genre cinema to transport viewers to a place and a situation they otherwise might never experience (thankfully, in this case).
It works as both a riveting, gut-churning thriller and as a showcase for the acting abilities of Yelchin and Stewart, as well as female lead Imogen Poots.
This is one you’re going to watch multiple times. It’s just that good.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Yes.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – Nazis, man, Nazis.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
Traders (MPI Media Group, 90 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): Traders, the new thriller from first-time feature co-writer/directors Rachael Moriarty and Peter Murphy, plays like the recession edition of “Fight Club” without the visual panache and social commentary that made David Fincher’s film so memorable.
That’s not to say Traders isn’t entertaining and morally harrowing, because it is – in spades.
Traders tells the story of a young millennial who loses his finance job and, in a stroke of brilliance beget by desperation, conceives of a new currency market, operated on the deep web, where despairing souls liquidate everything of value they own, place the cash in a green duffle bag and agree to meet another “trader” at a private location to fight to the death in order to claim the accumulated wealth of both participants.
The film, while bloody and brutal, suffers from an unnecessary voice-over by star Killian Scott. The fights – for what they are – are efficiently filmed bursts of mayhem that rarely rise above the level of a schoolyard dispute video on YouTube (minus the fatal climax).
Traders is good and worth a watch, but it’s not a cult classic you will want to view again.
Slasher: Season One (Shout! Factory, 480 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): The first scripted show for cable TV’s Chiller Network is a nice throwback by creator/executive producer Aaron Martin to the heyday of horror. The first season of this anthology show focuses on a young woman who barely avoided being killed by a masked psychopath when she was a child. Of course, she moves back years later and takes up residence in her former family home. The show’s tone, gore and character development is on par with some of the better offerings by networks like SyFy and BBC America. It’s entertaining and just engrossing enough to keep you coming back to see how its short eight-episode run winds up.
Model Hunger (Wild Eye Releasing, 85 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Scream queen Debbie Rochon’s directorial debut, Model Hunger, is a grisly, gory indictment of low-budget Hollywood that centers around a washed-up former actress (Lynn Lowry) who brutally murders young women in her home. It’s wonderful to see Lowry, a screen veteran of 46 years, who starred in numerous cult classics like “The Crazies,” “Shivers,” “Cat People” and more, be provided with a starring vehicle that allows her to fully flex her entire repertoire of acting abilities. And Rochon’s instincts as a director are solid, even when she frequently segues into odd, eerie moments, such as Lowry’s favorite TV show about a transgendered beauty queen. This isn’t safe filmmaking by a long shot. Rochon knows her audience – she has starred in more than 240 movies herself, with the majority of those being low-budget horror, sci-fi and softcore gore. She ramps up the intensity whenever Lowry dispatches a new victim, and those scenes especially, bear the gruesome hallmark of a fearsome new force behind the camera who fans likely will want to follow.
Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow – Special Edition (Synapse Films, 90 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): Produced in 2007, this behind-the-scenes documentary detailing the making of 1982’s “Creepshow” is a blast to watch for the first 30 minutes or so. After that, despite some interviews with beloved stars like Adrienne Barbeau, the film becomes somewhat repetitive and its reliance on third-tier participants – literally, there is one guy who worked as a grip on the movie who keeps being interviewed about certain stars who are now dead and whose insightful contributions amount to him basically saying ‘he (or she) was a nice person even though I rarely interacted with them.’ One key person not interviewed for the feature? Stephen King. How is that even possible?
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