WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.
This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com
Green Room (2015)
: 91% critics, 75% audience
We watched on Vudu ($4.99).
An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “A punk rock band is forced to fight for survival after witnessing a murder at a neo-Nazi skinhead bar.”
Mikey: My big disappointment with this movie is not a fair one: the top review on IMDB said “Don’t read anything about this movie before you see it! Just watch!” which misled me into thinking there would be some huge twist, and it would blow my mind. I can’t fault the movie for not living up to my misinterpretation of some random guy on IMDB, but I was let down when it didn’t turn out this whole thing was a metaphorical transdimensional journey through somebody’s head, or something. So, spoilers, but there’s really no twist to this movie. Were you also expecting one?
I guess I was because you had told me about that comment… but I wasn’t super invested in one. And once we started watching, I wasn’t thinking about anything but what was happening on the screen. This was one of the more riveting of the movies we’ve seen so far.
Mikey: And it was. Very real, that’s the word I want to throw around for this movie. Sometimes very painfully so.
Yes. There’s a pain I get in my gut when I see someone who has been injured in real life, like a sympathy cramp or whatever. I don’t generally get them for movies, as movie violence is either ridiculously fake or so over the top I can’t relate to it. The injuries in this movie had my stomach in knots.
Mikey: Yes! We talked in an earlier movie about gore and I said the most it does to me is gross me out, but I felt the gut punch from seeing these injuries. You said it best: it’s like seeing a real person injured badly, it hurts you as well. It raised the stakes and made me invested in the characters, since apparently my internal organs were invested.
It made it harder for me to watch, but in an oddly good way. There were pieces I just couldn’t look at, but I was almost sad I couldn’t keep watching the movie. I’m not sure I can describe it, but normally, I don’t care about missing the bits that make me close my eyes, cover my ears, and hum loudly. This movie made me turn away, but regretfully.
Mikey: That realism is throughout. One thing I kept thinking about this movie is that this situation (people witnessed a stabbing, and so now are being held hostage… in an almost friendly way?... to prevent them from reporting it) would be no big deal in a lot of movies. It seems so minor, but it’s a real life horror. It could absolutely happen, and the characters were appropriately terrified by it. I think about ghost movies we watch where the people only seem to minorly care that their friends were sliced apart by phantom blades in front of them, while these people were absolutely terrified that skinheads were outside the door with guns. It was all real.
I found the characters to be chillingly real, too. On both sides. The “Ain’t Rights” reminded me A LOT of my brother and his band, Nopamine
. They were mostly normal people who gave each other crap and eschewed many of the rules of normal society, but who were willing to sacrifice to look out for one another.
And the skin-heads… well, I don’t know many skinheads in real life, but these guys seemed believable. They were ruthless, but not in a ridiculous, careless way. They were smart in their actions and that made them that much more terrifying.
Mikey: I’m glad your skinhead count is lowish? I liked that it wasn’t a mindless army ready to murder. There was a lot of reluctance, and more than one traitor (who became traitors mainly on the basis that this was further than they were willing to go). That’s more of that sneaky reality. Only Captain Picard was a true villain.
I dunno. There were some pretty scary kids in his crew. The guy who was willing to get stabbed in the gut for $300 (which he then stupidly returned to Cpt Picard for “safe keeping” as he was hauled off to jail) to create the cover-up was pretty villainous.
Mikey: Oh, that one was super real! That’s a teenager for you. Young and dedicated to the cause. Probably would wuss out on killing though (I bet those two kids didn’t have the infamous Red Laces).
Thinking back, it was the folks that looked like they were in their late 20s, early 30s who were least loyal. That’s a brain development thing, I think. The brain finally matures to the point of being able to make your own decisions instead of just blindly following someone charismatic. Sometimes.
Mikey: Yeah, the teenagers are kind of cult-like, but as they get older, they see the cracks in the armor. Speaking of more realism, this movie included not only cell phones, but working reception! And they got a call off to 911! Yet the movie didn’t collapse (actually it was key to the plot).
In a way that makes it even scarier. No more relying on “Well, I’d have a working cell phone” as justification as to why this couldn’t happen to me.
Mikey: Yeah, the complexity and thought behind the skinheads’ plan was scary and real. They thought about the angles realistically. They didn’t get everything, but they thought about the real things you would think about, and really plotted how to get rid of these kids in a way that they could skate by. That was the flip-side to this being a real-life horror: the villains were real-life capable, not overwhelming monsters, and they were appropriately concerned about the situation. A movie villain normally would be like “shoot ‘em all in the head and toss the bodies in the swamp”, but these guys spent the whole movie trying to carefully figure out how to extricate themselves from a situation involving a single girl being stabbed.
They had a lot riding on it. I think a whole world of hurt would have rained down on them if the local law enforcement could get the tiniest bit of leverage.
The question of whether this was truly a “horror” movie has come up. What are your thoughts on that? Does this qualify?
Mikey: I really don’t think it is. It’s listed as “Crime, Horror, Music” on IMDB. Crime absolutely. Music, questionably (it’s about musicians, but it’s definitely not a ‘music’ movie). But this is not horror. Which is funny because it is the most horrifying one we’ve seen, but it’s those little specific cultural cues that tell me this is not horror. The same events could’ve been portrayed as horror, but I think they would’ve had to keep the villains more opaque (not let us see their internal squabbles and see them as human and fallible), and spend a lot more time confused and in the dark. I guess that’s the main thing: don’t let us see both sides. Just give us the band’s view and leave us scared and wondering about what was going on outside. And throw a cat at someone.
I guess I see your point. I don’t want to. I want this to count because it’s the kind of horror that I like… but what that really means is that I really don’t like horror. I like thrillers, crime and suspense.
Mikey: Thriller and suspense are absolutely the words for this.
Okay… I have a series of deep questions, not necessarily related to one another. Ready?
Mikey: 1,2,3,4 !!!! >SCREAMING PROFANITIES<
You’d make a GREAT punk rocker. So the first question is about the philosophy of anarchy. The Ain’t Rights were pretty anarchist - as are most punk bands, I suspect - and don’t have much respect or need for rules. They do what they want, when they want. Then they get locked in a room by some guys who obviously want them dead. I guess my question is… are there really anarchists in foxholes?
Mikey: “Anarchy! I don’t even know what that means, but I love it!”
Well… I don’t see why not really, I mean, if you’re in a bad situation, you can employ a lack of rules in battling it. In fact, there’s a big discussion in this movie over how to fight back - with regimented army precision, or wild abandon. Which certainly epitomizes the distinction. I’m actually not sure which way they go in the end, because he seems to be going nuts, but he’s doing it in a very calculated way as part of a sophisticated plan. So I guess it’s precision, but looking like anarchy.
Maybe that’s an underlying theme in this movie, because it’s the anarchist punks battling the rigidly authoritarian skinheads - who style themselves as anarchists, but are anything but. They believe strictly in the rule of law (not American law of course, but their leaders’ law over the followers), and a hierarchy. Very far right ideology meeting very far left. Or something?
I’ve gone back and forth on this. I originally wondered it earlier in the movie when the band was trying very hard to get the police to come help them. Then when they talked about the real war/paintball war dichotomy, I thought maybe they’d successfully argued the point.
Aside - that whole discussion made me think of the Colonists using non-traditional methods to fight the British army’s very traditional style.
Mikey: Totally! But aside aside: I saw in the trivia that the paintball story is true (it happened to the director), and that Rick Spears was actually the name of the guy who did the kamikaze attack.
Not surprising. It felt like a real story. Anyway, by the end, I was back to thinking that, although they may have thought they were doing things their own way, they were using some pretty traditional strategies. It didn’t feel like anarchy at the end. It just felt exhausted and hurt and hopeful it was over.
Mikey: They were sure beaten down. That’s another anti-horror note: it was fun to watch the goodguys “win” (the few of them that survived), with clever planning and strategy. That’s illegal in a horror movie, but almost mandatory in all other forms of movie. Well, there’s always The Final Girl, I suppose.
She just happened to have a friend this time. So that actually covered two of my questions (the second was going to be about the paintball theory).
Mikey: Wait - in between your deep questions, I’d like to pose dumb questions: As this movie suggests, does duct tape really fix everything?
Absolutely. I’m going to have nightmares about that kid’s arm for years though. *shudder*
Mikey: That’s some special effects!
And the way they unzipped the big guy with the box cutter!? blegh.
Mikey: You don’t have to describe each bit of gore to me!
I want our viewers to have nightmares, too!
Mikey: Are they viewers? I think there’s some debate about that.
Do you think there is anyone else in the wide realm of people who know us who would get that reference? We’re such geeks. And not even the cool kind. Just really geeky geeks.
Mikey: I think that joke was 100% for us alone.
Alright. So I don’t remember the cool question I was going to ask about this next thing, but it was without a doubt my favorite thing from the whole movie, so I have to at least mention it. One of the band members says “We won’t all live, but **** it, maybe we won’t all die.” That kind of encapsulates the whole of the punk rock scene (what little of it, I know) in one sentence. They seem to have this almost careless attitude about their own mortality, but an almost rabid sense of loyalty and protection toward “their people”. It’s quite touching.
Mikey: Yes, that was a good line. And it goes back to my favorite thing in the movie to harp on: these kids fully understood the danger they were in. Even when the skinheads were being polite and pretending the cops were on their way, these guys were freaked out and really knew they were in deep. So opposite to most horror movies where people ignore the screaming face they see on a videotape and just go back to sleep in the same haunted bedroom. I really appreciated that. Everything about this movie was overly real.
And at the same time… they kept their wits about them way better than most people do in even minorly frustrating situations. They were scared, but they didn’t really turn on each other and they didn’t melt into puddles of goo. I had a lot of respect for the kids in this band. I’d say I wanted to be their friend, but I’m WAY not cool enough to hang out with them.
Mikey: That’s okay, they’re mostly dead now. It was nice not to sit through a bunch of blubbering and screaming like you usually have to, as well. But again, it wasn’t like they were action stars, they were just so realistic.
I’m surprised you haven’t brought up the saddest thing about this movie…
Mikey: I almost changed what I was saying so I wouldn’t make you start blubbering! This was the last movie with Anton Yelchin to be released. His death really affects you a lot! And it is pretty upsetting.
Yes. It’s strange because I don’t normally get all attached to actors… I get attached to characters, and I know they aren’t real… but when I read about Anton’s death, it really struck me as shockingly unfair and sad. I honestly can’t think about him without having an extreme emotional reaction. I’m glad I thought he was an Elijah Wood look-alike through most of the movie.
Mikey: Yes, normally celebrities die for appropriate reasons that are sad in a whole different way: drug overdose, accident on movie set, drug overdose, alcohol poisoning, drug overdose. But this was just random death out of the blue (his car crushed him when it started rolling due to some kind of problem with the gear shift).
I think that’s the thing that gets me. It’s just so random and unexpected. I don’t know what kind of person he really was - maybe he had all kind of high risk behaviors that would have eventually caught up with him - but that’s the kind of thing that gets normal people. It’s a reminder that we can’t protect ourselves or our loved ones from everything, no matter how hard we might try.
Mikey: When I saw Donald Trump bloviating the other day, I had a sadder thought: that the world lost Phil Hartman (imagine his impression!), and that is a more tragic death than random cars - mental illness and murder.
Yep. The world is a scary place, made scarier by all the humans roaming it!
Mikey: Which this movie accurately portrays.
I have one last question. You have anything more to say before I ask it?
Mikey: Sounds like it is going to be a fatal question! No, I have no final words.
We’ll you’re going to have to come up with some because my final question is… What is your desert island band?
Mikey: [cut to credits, you’ll never know] Ha!
Is that your answer??? You’re a cheater.
Mikey: No, but it’s a hard question. Since I’m not going to a desert island anytime soon, I will save the hard work of narrowing it down for right before the trip, and just give you some of the candidates: Linkin Park, Fort Minor, Dresden Dolls/Amanda Palmer (counts as one!), Green Day, hmm… I bet it would end up being Dresden Dolls. But I so like to hear a little of everything, I would be mad with a single band. What is your desert island band?
I feel like I should be doing some research into these bands to find out which of them is made up of strong, smart individuals who are most likely to be able to help me off a desert island… but I suppose to don’t get to bring the ACTUAL band. In that case, I think it would have to be Linkin Park. If I had their whole oeuvre, it would cover most of my needs… music to mope to (because I’m trapped on a desert island), music to get me pumped up, music to sing along to… Yep. That would do it.
Mikey: I didn’t think we got the real band. Maybe I want the London Philharmonic so I have like 50 people helping me. Or consuming my coconuts, hmm, maybe not.
If you have a bunch of people, you’re more likely to have one you really don’t like… you know, when it comes time to choose who to eat first…
Mikey: So I’m selecting on the basis of meat. Let’s get off this island.
Time to rate Green Room?
Mikey: Am I always first? This is a great movie. It’s hard to watch, but not as much as you would think. It’s riveting and intense in a way that is so much more low-key than usual. I hate to say it, but “real”. Let’s call this a 5/5 just to be nice to Anton.
Oh, snap. I was looking away from what you were typing so that you wouldn’t influence my vote. I was going to go with 4.5, but couldn’t think of any reason to actually dock it that .5, so I ended up on 5 out of 5! With the caveat that it’s not really a horror film, of course.
Mikey: But so horrific. Join us again tomorrow for The Pact!