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You should watch "Green Room" (2015)

I'll just cut to the chase: Green Room is a fantastic thriller/horror.  If you have any interest in either of those genres, you need to do yourself a favor and check it out.  This is absolutely going to be on my "top ten movies I saw in 2016" list this year, unless literally everything I watch after today is a spiritual experience.

It's Jeremy Saulnier's follow-up to Blue Ruin, which was also one of my favorite movies in the year I watched it.  What's kinda funny is that I didn't realize it was by him until after I watched, but in the last twenty minutes or so, I started thinking, "This feels a lot like Blue Ruin." He's got a distinctive way of evoking dread and tension, and I love it.

Technically it's one of those movies that works better the less you know, so I'm dividing this post into green/yellow/red light sections if you're worried about me ruining the experience.

The Spoiler-Free Part

Only just last week I wrote a review of Grave Encounters and gushed about how much I loved that movie because it was so good at rising tension.  And then it must have been like fate said, "Pfft, you want to see some real rising tension?  Try this out."  Because then I saw Green Room, and while it doesn't diminish my love for Grave Encounters, it does outdo the "holy crap, this escalated" feeling by sticking to completely grounded, real-world plot mechanics instead of invoking anything supernatural. It's a tense, terrifying, harrowing experience because everything in it feels so real.

Green Room does something really cool with its tension that not many movies try: the villains are just as afraid of the protagonists as the other way around.  Fear is a pervasive element throughout.  Everybody is panicking, everybody is on edge, nobody knows what to do next - and because of that feeling, you as a viewer truly feel trapped and taken off guard.  All great thrillers have one thing in common, and that's that they get you on the edge of your seat not knowing what will happen next.  Green Room does this by disarming you with a touch of humanity.

This is not an easy movie to watch.  The violence is certainly a factor - it's not necessarily gory the way many horror movies are gory, but when it comes up, it's extremely brutal and disturbing.  But moreso than the violence is that touch of humanity.  You realize that everybody is reacting out of an "oh God, I have to cover my ass" instinct.  It's not a movie about cold-blooded killers stalking their prey - it's about people with a facade of toughness that crumbles when something unexpected and terrible forces them to make on-the-fly decisions.

I'll save the political analysis for another time, but it's telling that the movie chooses Neo-Nazism as a plot device.  (It's also perfect timing, given that Trump is the Republican nominee.)  It's a movie that tries to show that underneath all the anger and vitriol, people with hateful ideas are basically just scared of screwing things up.  But if you let that fear guide you, you're just going to end up... well, doing or falling victim to all the things that happen that I can't talk about because those are technically spoilers.

All the actors are phenomenal.  It's one of those rare movies where everybody was absolutely perfectly cast.  Major shout-outs go to Anton Yelchin (RIP), Patrick Stewart, Alia Shawkat, Macon Blair, and perhaps most of all, Imogen Poots, who not only steals the show but obliterates it.

I can't say enough good things about this movie.  It's quite nearly perfect.

The Sorta / Kinda Spoilery Part (But Not Really)

So, one thing I've noticed about the plot descriptions I've seen so far is that they all basically shy away from the inciting event of the film.  All the plot descriptions I've seen (except on Wikipedia) basically sum it up as, "A punk band plays at a venue without realizing it's full of Neo-Nazis."

Just in case that's what you've seen, too, I feel like I should clarify, because that's not really a good description of the plot at all.  A more accurate description would be, "A down-on-their-luck punk band reluctantly plays at a Neo-Nazi venue and inadvertently witnesses a murder."

I wouldn't call this a spoiler, but, hey, some people want to have literally no expectations.  If you're one of those people, don't read the paragraph above, I guess.

My Rating: 5 / 5

The Part With Spoilers

So, mainly this is just a space where I wanted to talk more about something that really resonated with me.  I'm going to assume you've seen the movie by now.

My absolute favorite part of the movie is the brief conversation the Ain't Rights have just before they decide to run out of the green room and escape.  They had previously had an interview where they gave punk/metal answers to the "desert island band" question, and it comes up again here.  But now that they're broken down into hysterics and raw humanity, Shawkat (I think) asks again, just for the hell of it - and almost everybody gives very mainstream answers, like Prince or Simon and Garfunkel.

I love how concisely the movie managed to get across that feeling of honesty.  There has been a general sense before this that the Ain't Rights are into the music, but not necessarily the lifestyle; they don't feel comfortable sleeping in their van and stealing gas to get from gig to gig.  They just want to play the music they like and go home and sleep in a nice bed like anyone else.  The movie could have had somebody say, "Just to be honest, I'm really scared right now, guys," but instead they decided to put this moment in and it makes the characters feel so much more tangible and fragile.

It's especially an awesome moment because earlier they had a fakeout tender moment where one of the Ain't Rights pretends he's about to say something heartfelt, and then farts instead.  That scene is kinda funny, but when you realize it's actually part of the set-up to a legitimate tender moment later on, it kinda becomes mind-blowing.

Green Room used a fart joke to set up some of the best pathos I've ever seen.  The bar has been raised, ladies and gentlemen.