BAD MOON RISING
By Sam Jones
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Producer(s): Neil Kopp, Victor Moyers, Anish Savjani
Writer: Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Patrick Stewart, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner
So, I think we all know this feeling: you wake up, you get out of bed, you’re eating your breakfast, and you stop for a moment and say: “You know what? I wanna get real sad today, I wanna get gross, and grim, and sad!”
You all, uh…you have those feelings too right? Right?
Don’t answer that, its rhetorical (also you can’t anyway). Well, if you’ve ever felt as above, then boy howdy, I’ve found the movie for you!
The third feature film from director Jeremy Saulnier, who previously bought us Murder Party and Blue Ruin, Green Room follows the underwhelming low-key tour of a shitty punk rock band, which ends up taking the band to a backwoods Nazi punk rock club. After the band’s frontman (Yelchin) accidentally stumbles onto the body of a woman murdered by one of the club’s delightful denizens, the band is held hostage in the club’s green room and has to find some way out of the club before they end up dead.
Right off the bat, I’m just gonna straight up tell you that Green Room is a genuinely great film: well-shot, well-paced, and loaded with great performances. It’s also the darkest and most relentlessly grim film I’ve seen all year: it’s what you might call a “feel bad” movie. I really can’t stress enough that this isn’t the kind of film you go see if you’re just looking for a good time; honestly, its hard to think of a specific time that would be right to see this. Point is, it ain’t for the faint of heart, to use a tired old cliché.
Anyway, now onto the film itself: Green Room‘s greatest strength, in my estimation, is how grounded and naturalistic it feels throughout: Everything from the action, to the characters and how they responds to their situations feels terrifyingly real given the situation: while Yelchin and Stewart are the big names in this film, pretty much everyone delivers a great, naturalistic performance that only serves to heighten the stressful tension of watching a bunch of clueless punk rock kids trying not to get murdered by neo-nazis. Stewart is , of course, great in his role: portraying the club’s owner and leader of the neo-nazis. His cold, calculated approach to the role imbues the character with an incredibly disturbing sense of menace and dread. Yelchin also does a great job carrying the film in his role as well: he comes across as very real and captures a very genuine feeling of terror that you rarely see in films like this, or any film recently for that matter.
Beyond just the performances, Green Room’s visual style does a lot to enhance the grim and grimy nature of what happens on-screen: everything appears sullen and washed out, visually reflecting the grim reality of what unfolds excellently. All the gore and blood effects in the film are practical and look unsettling real: Saulnier clearly displays a finesse here for capturing violence in a way that is shocking and horrifying, while not falling into the often-frustrating trap of gratuity or being too in-love with your effects: every moment of extreme violence (of which there are a few) is captured just enough for impact, but never lingered on, and this plays well to the film’s grimy, naturalistic aesthetic beautifully.
Green Room’s screenplay also seems to have been well-handled and very tight, which isn’t overly surprising given that Saulnier also wrote this film. The whole film has an incredibly claustrophobic nature to it: it has what you would refer to as a “bottle plot”: much of the film barely leaves the grimy, nasty-looking green room the band gets trapped in, and its does a great deal to give the film’s plotting and action a very tight focus. It’s also refreshing in this kind of film to see characters that aren’t either rock-stupid or ridiculously smart or practical: while I wouldn’t necessarily say characters act “stupidly”, they often make very poor decisions, but more in the way that a normal person would if they were in this kind of situation: both our protagonists and the neo-nazis trying to kill them as well, which is again refreshing: it all adds to the naturalism of the film and its terrifying, visceral sense of the nightmarish reality of the situation this film’s plot revolves around.
Honestly, I really have little in the way of criticism that I could actually level at this film: other than to say that I really wasn’t kidding when I called this movie “relentlessly grim”: there are almost zero moments of levity or release of tension once the band gets trapped in the club, so it really does make for an extremely stressful viewing experience. While for some that would be a criticism, for myself, I can’t really say that it is: that unrelenting, queasy kind of stress that you feel throughout this movie was very clearly Saulnier’s design and intent, and since he achieves that with Green Room, I can really only applaud it.
This is a tough one to offer a recommendation on: a genuinely great film, but also one that isn’t exactly a particularly great time to watch.
So I suppose my final verdict goes something like this: if you’re a film buff or movie fan of kind or stripe, or if you’re just in a dark mood and need something that indulges it, than Green Room is more than worthy of your time and money. But if you’re just after a good time at the movies, Green Room is probably one you should steer well clear of.