Posts Tagged ‘imogen poots’

green-room-poster

I meant to see writer/director Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room when it was out in theaters “back” in 2015. Never happened. Then I meant to see it as soon as it came out on Blu-ray (from Lionsgate, who have put together a nice little package with a “making-of” featurette and a full-length director’s commentary track that’s pretty engaging). Never happened. Then it finally made it to the top of my Netflix rental queue (yes, I still have one of those) and guess what? Last night I did, finally, see it. And you know what? I’m glad I waited.

I say that because as good as Green Room no doubt seemed when it came out — and it is very good — it now seems downright prescient as an allegory for American life circa late 2016/early 2017. A year-and-change ago this punks-vs.-Nazis survival horror probably came off as being a bit far-fetched to many viewers, but that was back when the idea of uneducated rural racists seemed an almost quaint anachronism of a day and age that had thankfully passed. Now, their chosen con-man-turned-candidate is headed for the White House, and he’s bringing their wretched movement’s most successful spokesman, the risible and pathetic Steve Bannon, along for the ride — and so, in a very real sense, this flick has ended up becoming a preview of Trump’s America in microcosm.

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Of course, back when Green Room came out, co-star Anton Yelchin was also very much alive, so a solemn air of a Hollywood — and an America — that was and might have been hangs heavy over the proceedings here and accentuates a wistful tone already inherent in the beautiful and near-romantically shot Pacific Northwest landscapes. If you saw this film upon release, then, you’d probably be doing yourself a favor to go back and check it out again now in light of the small- and large-scale tragedies that have happened since and see if it hits you even harder this time. My bet is that it almost certainly will.

For those unfamiliar with the set-up here, it plays out as follows : an east coast punk band consisting of lead singer Tiger (played by Callum Turner), guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat), bassist Pat (Yelchin), and drummer Reece (Joe Cole) are wrapping up their latest tour with no money, food, or gas for their van. Their final show ends up a total bust thanks to half-assed preparation from Bay Area fan-boy/promoter Tad (David W. Thompson), but all hope is not lost — Tad can line ’em up with one more gig thanks to some cousin of his who knows a club out in the sticks that needs a bill-filler the next afternoon as part of an all-day music fest. It pays cash, which is always nice, but he warns them not to get too political, as it’s strictly a “boots and braces” crowd out in BF Oregon.

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Tell ya what, though, this band has balls — they get up in front of the racist fucking skinhead bastards (remember when we called ’em what they were instead of all this “alt- right” and “white nationalist” bullshit?) , play the DK classic “Nazi Punks Fuck Off,” and somehow get out of the place alive. For a second, at any rate. Until they get back to the titular green room, where they witness a brutal crime that suddenly thrusts them into an uneasy temporary alliance with a local “white power” fraulein named Amber (Imogen Poots) as they all fight to stay alive against the low-rent stormtroopers under the command of cold-blooded backwoods would-be Hitler Darcy Banker (Patrick Stewart at his absolute best and most chilling). Spurts of intensely bloody and graphic violence expertly timed for maximum impact punctuate the white-knuckle (in this case very white-knuckle) tension that Saulnier lays on thick and heavy, but the real genius of this film lies in marrying the kind of psychotic evil we’re used to seeing in the horror genre (its most obvious physical manifestation here coming in the form of Eric Edelstein’s “Big Justin” character) with a very real and dangerous political ideology. And it’s twice as frightening now that there are far fewer than six degrees of separation between the skinhead movement and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

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Populated with heart, gallows humor, spellbinding performances across the board, agonizingly human characters, and a very real and palpable threat, Green Room would (and, hey, should) have been my pick for best horror film of 2015 if I had seen it then — in post-election 2016, it’s downright essential viewing. This is what we’re up against, and it’s very frightening indeed. Nazi Trump Fuck Off.

I suppose it was inevitable, really. With the vampire craze in full swing thanks to TV shows like True Blood  and The Vampire Diaries, and with the damn-near-ubiquitous-at-this-point Twilight franchise ruling at the box office and still sitting somewhere near the top of the fiction bestseller lists, it was probably only a matter of time before the creatively-stagnant-powers-that-be in Hollywood turned their attention to a remake of one of the quirkiest, most downright fun vampire movies ever made, namely writer-director (and eventual Child’s Play creator) Todd Holland’s 1985 mini-masterpiece Fright Night.

Here’s the thing, though — any “reimagining” of Holland’s film was doomed to be subpar in comparison to its progenitor almost from the word go because a big part of the original Fright Night‘s charm is that it’s such a product of its time. It’s unpretentiously, unapologetically 80s all the way, not because it was trying to be or anything, but just because, hell, that’s when it was made and they didn’t have much budget to reach for anything greater than they were capable of. It’s from that brief-but-glorious time when Hollywood decided to try to blend equal parts teen horror and teen comedy and see what it could come up with — if there was money to be made halfway between Friday The 13th  and Porky’s, if you will.

The answer, ultimately, was “some, but not enough to keep it going,” but in both the sort and the long runs the fusion-formula gamble paid off , and continues to pay off, for us genre fans with classics like Holland’s film and Fred Decker’s superb Night Of The Creeps.

That, however, was then, and this, needless to say,  is now. And what has the now brought us?

Well, something of a “close-but-no-cigar,” I’m afraid.

Director Craig Gillespie (best known for the indie-hit Lars And The Real Girl) really does seem to have his heart in the right place here, and some of the “modernizing” touches, such as setting the story in a typically barren suburban Las Vegas cul-de-sac, work quite well (Vegas has a transient population and it’s not entirely out of place to see a house with blacked-out windows because so many people work night and need to sleep when it’s light out) — and some of the casting choices are damn-near brilliant, to be honest. Colin Farrell as vampire-next-door Jerry is out-of-this-world menacingly cool and oozes dangerous charisma throughout. When he’s hanging out just on the other side of the doorway of our ertswhile teen hero Charley (Anton Yelchin)’s house because he hasn’t been invited in, the tension’s palpable as he quite clearly is trying to ingratiate himself to the point where Charley tells him “hey, man, come on in” but is also trying to suss out whether our intrepid adolescent has figured out who and what he really is. It’s a highlight-reel moment in a (no shit here people) Oscar-worthy performance from Farrell.

And on the supporting actor front — recasting Roddy MacDowall’s legendary Peter Vincent character as a Criss Angel Mindfreak-type Vegas performer rather than a washed-up TV horror host is another stroke of pure genius, as was casting Doctor Who  alum David Tennant in the role. Essentially he’s just playing the Tenth Doctor with a substance abuse problem (and, it’s strongly hinted, the sexual dysfunction issues that often go along with that), but it works and it’s a hell of a lot fun.

It’s in the rest of the casting, though, that the big cracks in this flick begin to show. First off, Anton Yelchin is just a straight-up bore as Charley, and nowhere near as interesting, or even mildly sympathetic, as a lead needs to be. He just never gives you much of any reason to give a shit whether or not he, and by extension through him everyone he loves, gets killed. So that’s a bit of a bummer. He’s not even so much actively bad as he is just crushingly bland. And the same can be aid for his supposedly too-hot-for-him, entirely-out-of-his-league girlfriend, Amy, played by Imogen Poots (today’s winner of the “celebrity-names-that-are-too-fucking-clever-by-half award, runner-up being Miranda July), who (sorry to be superficial, but) isn’t all that outrageously hot and more importantly isn’t all that good an actress. And finally, we’ve got Toni Collette slumming is as Charley’s mom (quite an international cast here, by the way — Collette’s Australian, Yelchin’s Russian, Tennant and Poots are British, and Farrell’s Irish), who’s serviceable enough, but this role is too blase for an actress of consequence like her to be messing with.

And lastly on the poor casting and performances front, and this one really hurts — Christopher Mintz-Plasee, McLovin himself, absolutely sucks as the 2001 version of Evil Ed. Granted, the script absolutely wrecks the character from the outset, turning a likable geek from the original into an asshole geek in this one, but even still, Mintz-Plasse is so unconvincing as a prick-ish nerd, and even more unconvincing one’s he’s “turned” by Jerry, that even a better-written character wouldn’t have stood a chance.

The other big flaw with this film is the script itself. the pacing just seems off from the start and when the film’s earlier attempts at blending some comedy into the mix, as the original did so effortlessly, are abandoned, we end up with a flick that takes itself way too seriously when at the outset it seemed like it wanted to plant its tongue firmly in its cheek. The massive, cop-out, deus ex machina-type plot device that resolves everything at the conclusion is impossibly lame, too, and probably made David Tennant feel right at home because it’s just the sort of mega-big, but mega-cheap-and-obvious ending that Russell T. Davies used to wrap up every season of Doctor Who with.

All that being said, there’s slightly more good than bad here on the whole, especially if you see it in 3-D (and yes, this was actually shot in 3-D rather than having it added in post-production, so there are some really cool, old-school 3-D style moments), and hey, you even get a cameo by the original Jerry himself, Chris Sarandon, so all is not lost by any means. But it sure comes close. Gillespie and crew seem to either lose sight of, or change their minds about, exactly what type of film they’re making here at right about the halfway mark, and make the rather perplexing choice to bury the fun under the grim way past the point where they ever had much chance of actually scaring us very much,  and the result is a movie that tries to be more than it has any business being, and consequently, and ironically, ends up being so much less. in short, it’s tough to go for pure thrills, chills, and gore when you start off letting us know we needn’t take anything here too seriously. Either stick with trying to blend horror and comedy from start to finish, as the original did so successfully, or just go with one or the other. And hey, if you ‘re absolutely determined to convince us that suddenly,out of nowhere, this now-dark-and-humorless world has consequences, don’t insult our intelligence by telegraphing an obviously consequence-free ending  (remember that deus ex machina I mentioned a second ago?) while there’s still a good half hour left to go.

Don’t get me wrong — as remakes go, this could have been a lot worse (most are), but to see a movie that really does seem to get where it’s coming and have an equally solid idea of where it’s going suddenly become so thoroughly and completely lost thanks to some ill-advised, and out-of-the-blue, tonal shifts just when it seemed to be in a position to really hit its stride is a real head-scratcher. Gillespie just about had a film here that you could happily compare to its predecessor, as with Let Me In/Let the Right One In (just for the sake of a recent comparison in the vampire genre), but the whole thing really loses it focus, and its heart, when it decides to ditch the fun and start taking itself seriously for no discernible reason whatsoever.  Some of the actors, most notably Farrell, who’s just plain dynamite here, really deserve better than to have their self-assured, supremely confident work lost inside a movie that  can’t quite decide what it wants to be.