Sunday, July 10, 2016

Green Room

   I'd heard great things about Green Room, the hype was intense. Almost as intense as the movie itself. It's been a long time since I've seen a movie as white knuckled and as gut wrenching as this one. It's also one of Anton Yelchin's last movies, and his death looms over the material like Brandon Lee and The Crow. According to his IMDb filmography, he has a handful of other roles in movies that are currently in post production, but Green Room is now. It feels fresh, current, and the subject matter is bleak as hell. Coupled with the fairly recent news of Yelchin's death, Green Room is a grim watch, but still a fantastic one. Still, everything is a bit sadder now, regardless.

   The movie follows a punk rock band to a sketchy backwoods gig where they end up stumbling across a dead body, turning their night into a gauntlet of horrors, pitting them against the band of neo-Nazi skinheads that run the place. It brings to mind new wave French horror movies like Inside and Frontier(s). However, Green Room, is less concerned with buckets of gore and shock value, and is more about keeping the tension at a nearly unbearable 11. Not that it isn't a bloody movie with a lot of shocking bits, but it also feels grounded and frighteningly plausible. Despite that, there's still a slick and stylish energy coursing through the movie's veins.

   Green Room is a raw nerve, pulsing with violence. In the middle of the chaos though is a strong group of characters who're engaging and even fun to watch. Yelchin's character, Pat, isn't the front man of his band, but he ends up being the de facto leader of his group once things go sideways. He has to negotiate his way to safety, having a dialog with the skinhead's leader through a door. And, ho' boy what a character he was. Played to amazing effect by Patrick Stewart, Darcy, the skinhead leader is a force to be reckoned with. He's a frightening and meticulous man who thinks nothing about plotting the deaths of a bunch of young people.

   Stewart brings a cold and malicious intensity to the character. When he seems to be trying to be the voice of reason to our trapped protagonists, you almost believe him. You want to believe him. But he's not that kind of man. Dogs, knives, guns, whatever he needs to make this problem go away, he'll use it. He's jaded, but smart and detail-oriented. He's not a reckless villain, he has a business to consider, and people under him. He's thinking about forensics, planning ahead for having to call the cops, thinking about the endgame when everything around him is pure chaos. As his polar opposite, Pat is a soft spoken but gutsy character.

   He anchors his group of friends; giving instructions and pep talks when everything looks profoundly bleak. Yelchin plays Pat with a likeable and understated reserve. The tone of the movie rested in no small part of this character's shoulders, and Yelchin never goes for the easy bits. Pat isn't 'quirky' and he's not a ballsy hothead. He's the quiet guy, indecisive, full of dumb ideas, but a guy that everyone likes. It might seem like a simple enough role, but I was impressed.

   The movie would still be a fine and dandy lesson in how to make a genuinely tense movie if it didn't have it's excellent cast of characters, but it does, and it's that much better for it. These characters feel alive, you don't want them to die. They're not just horror movie fodder. At one point, one of the characters is just trembling, and says "I can't do this." It's the all-too-real and genuine moments like that, which put Green Room above others of it's kind. At a certain point, it's easy to forget you're watching actors act. I was so terribly engrossed that I felt their panic as if it was my own.

   The movie is exceptionally creative as well, treating it's small location as a puzzle box full of twists, turns and surprises. The simple and unassuming room in which our main characters get trapped in becomes a veritable prison with no other way out, but make no mistake Green Room isn't a one-room show. It's a claustrophobic thriller, but the violence is frequently spilling out of the room and into the rest of the venue. Even the location of the place plays a factor. As our protagonists scheme to escape, the villains plot their demise with frightening immediacy. The fact this isn't shocking to any of them is all that much more scary to us.

   The movie isn't a pleasant little romp. It's dark and gritty and persistently white-knuckled. It's a razor sharp flick that unfolds with eerie precision at the hands of it's neo-nazi antagonists. The movie is lean, not spending too long on other stuff before the craziness hits, nor does it ever seem to run out of steam once it gets going. It's nail-biting tension never lets up until the final few minutes of the movie. With all the big summer blockbusters delivering epic battles and weightless stories Green Room is as refreshing as it is unpleasant- in the best way of course. It's a down-and-dirty little movie with a mean fighting spirit and a killer soundtrack. It's hard to find fault with it, and I'm sure it's well on it's way to becoming a genre classic.

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