Green Room excels at being wild and cool because its memory reaches back into a simpler time in the chronology of the badass. It’s almost calming. It’s doesn’t feel insecure or desperate like many overcompensating modern massacres do. It’s fun. It’s fun to watch a movie that feels like it should be being released onto VHS, or that feels like it wouldn’t mind Don LaFontaine’s voice on the trailer: “In a world where anything goes, and Patrick Stewart is a Nazi, one band from the suburbs of the nation’s capital must fight to stay alive, save each other, and escape from… The Green Room.”
Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier can’t seem to shake the early eighties, which is great. The movie is full of refreshingly tropey characters, like some bizzaro John Hughes world where, instead of The Jock and The Stoner, it’s The Punk and The Nazi and Those Twin Skinhead Brothers Who Always Seem To Be Hanging Around Simply Not Giving A Fuck. Even in Murder Party, the first widely available film of his, the main character has to deal with partygoers dressed as Pris from Blade Runner (the “basic pleasure model”) and a Baseball Fury from The Warriors.
Green Room has the sort of clean premise that probably made pitching it easy; the only reasonable response would have been, “Well yeah, somebody should go make that movie.” I’m not going to actually say what that premise is, because, for me, half of the fun of watching was the incredibly satisfying moment where I got what was in store and I could just turn off and watch.
That being said, there are some seriously violent parts that you cannot just passively participate in, and I think these are where Saulnier’s super-smartness shows the most clearly. All of the really brutal stuff is seen from the point of view of the person committing it, who is usually not used to being violent, nor are they particularly pleased with being forced to be. Therefore, like us, they find themselves in a situation where they’re traumatized just because it’s necessary. They are faced with the grizzly gastro-anatomy of their situation, and get no poetically licensed help navigating their way out of its labyrinth.
I also don’t mean to imply that it’s basic or predictable. The premise is lean and unconfused, but what happens is a frolicking mess of frantic false starts and machete-dashed hopes that will not take whatever route out currently seems viable.
Following the screening I attended, Saulnier came out to answer our questions and continue entertaining us. He was pretty modest and earnest and seemed very much like just some guy. He told us about growing up outside DC during the hardcore movement, and having it blow his suburban teenaged mind to see the throngs of people agreeing to temporarily abandon the things he didn’t even know other people felt constrained by. And that’s what the movie feels like: it feels like you’re thirteen, you’ve snuck into the city, and you’ve somehow gotten into some venue that you shouldn’t have, and your hands stink from your first cigarette, and you’re loving it, and it’s loud and angry and fast and hard, and people are dancing, together, and then a fight breaks out and you don’t know what to do, and you’re actually scared now so you leave early with your friends. But then, on the train, manically swapping stories of vantage angles and what this guy’s patch said and where that guy’s swastika was tattooed, you realize you want to go back tomorrow, and you do, and you hope there’s a fight.
dir. Jeremy Saulnier