Oh my giddy Tia Maria, if you can handle the stomach churning, super realist violence, then Green Room is a fascinating film…
…especially if you’re of the generation that grew up with the early movies of Walter Hill (Southern Comfort, Streets of Fire). Hill was in his turn a son of Peckinpah – notably with movies like Straw Dogs – and to a lesser extent John Boorman (with arguably his one really decent outing, Deliverance).
These films are usually considered cultural responses – metaphors perhaps – for the Vietnam conflict, where seemingly inexplicable violence is played out in a frontier or backwoods setting – and follow a hunter vs the hunted scenario.
In the 60s, 70s and 80s, they were very much seen as manifestations of the uncertainty and anxiety, guilt, despair and anger concerning the war. Writers and directors were constantly demanding that audiences imagine that the war was HERE – taking place in domestic America – not ‘far, far away’ in some foreign, forgettable land. So far, so cinematically allegorical.
So wind forward forty years to Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room. On the surface, this is a smart, gritty 95 minutes of exploitation horror… and it is full of nods to its cinematic antecedents – not just those Vietnam era pursuit movies, but teen horror, Children of the Corn, zombie films, even Scooby Doo in a very very dark way.
But then something truly fascinating happens.
Normally such ‘nods’ are post modern, ironic, reassuring. But here, the movie makes the nod, but then defiantly, stubbornly refuses to be funny or post modern at all. It uses irony to be un-ironic, post-modernism to be un-postmodern. It uses the form of the Vietnam allegory, to be completely unallegorical. The domestic war depicted in Green Room, is just that. This is a Trump era movie about America tearing itself to bits. It’s not an allegory for anything.
The antagonists aren’t psychopaths, or inbred, deformed, undead, ‘hillbillies’, Southern (!) or ‘foreign’.
They are very ordinary looking (hard) right wing Americans from the Pacific North West – no more no less.
Arghhh! It is all the more original and alarming because of it.
Well… I’m a Brit looking across the pond so perhaps US friends will happily say I don’t know shit. But that’s how it looked to me…
…and I really liked it, if ‘like’ is the right word.