horror podcast

Green Room

green_room_film_posterJeremy Saulnier wanted to make an exploitation movie with ready-made villains. And who better to fill this role (other than Russians, usually, or Arab terrorists) than Nazis?

Green Room (2015) is his third full-length feature, his first being the charmingly gory cloistered art scene send-up, Murder Party. Say this about the man: Brooklyn art studios and Oregon punk bars are as far removed as you can get from your standard horror set-up.

Hardcore band The Ain’t Rights is spinning its wheels on the road, a common enough fact of life for many touring acts. And they cut corners any way they can, sleeping in their van and siphoning gas.

When their tour sputters to Spinal Tap proportions, which include a truly terrible gig inside a half-capacity burrito joint, a fan-zine journalist/booker tries to remedy the misstep with a face-saving kick at the can: a very lucrative gig, albeit at a skinhead bar in the remote Pacific Northwest.

It’s deep in the dark woods, a feature of many horrors as these represent the border between order and chaos. But the bar’s pretty chaotic as well.

The Ain’t Rights’ singer baits the rough-neck crowd with a tear-through of Dead Kennedy’s Nazi Punks F*ck Off. Certainly not a number to help their case, and sure enough, there are enough members of the crowd on hand with unsympathetic sensibilities when it comes to that song.

greenroom_moviePost-gig, bassist Pat (the late Anton Yelchin) forgets his cell in the backstage green room, where, in true genre film fashion, he spots….a body!  It’s a young girl, who’s been stabbed in the side of the head.

What to do with a body is the plot that’s launched 1,000 films, but the way the material is handled here — to Saulnier’s credit — Green Room doesn’t even NEED a body!

The background/place setting is so authentic, the characters so compelling, that a spin-off film could’ve easily been made about the exploits of earlier Ain’t Rights’ tours, maybe an updated version of Bruce MacDonald’s Hard Core Logo.

Regardless, as witnesses to the crime, the band members find themselves in a terrible predicament, made worse upon the arrival of bar owner Darcy (a terrific, sonorous turn by none other than Patrick Stewart, squaring the Star Trek circle with Yelchin, who was Chekov in the movie reboot).

Terrific tense action and cramped atmosphere that doubles as a loving tribute to punk rock. Ironically, it’s also quiet, especially when it needs to be, a rarity in horror.

Punk’s not dead! But things aren’t looking right for Ain’t Right.

***3/4 (out of 5)


Escape from New York

escapefromnewyork1A match for They Live in terms of sheer paranoia + entertainment value, Escape from New York is a ballbuster.

Who needs a peninsular Panopticon when, in the near future, all of Manhattan is a prison and there aren’t even any guards?

Air Force One careens into the Big Apple, but not before the US president exits via escape pod. Unfortunately he’s been captured on the island, soon after he touched down.

Luckily, there’s one man who can save the day. And that man, is Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell). He’s a former special forces op, before Steven Seagal ruined that designation in perpetuity. He’s a King of the Prison Break Movies before our rotund aikidōka ruined those as well. He wears an eyepatch and has awesome flying/shooting skills while lacking stereoscopic binocular vision.

In exchange for his freedom (Snake is a convicted bank robber), he’s compelled into what on the surface is a suicide mission: drop onto island via glider, rescue the president, and do all of this before subcutaneously injected capsules on time release blow his arteries to bits. The injections are to prevent the resourceful Snake from simply escaping (the open air island prison may be escape-proof, but as we saw with Alcatraz, it’s possible someone as substantial as Plissken could make a go of it).

To assist him on the mission: a yellow cabbie played by Ernest Borgnine, of all people. He shepherds Snake to get intel from Brain (Harry Dean Stanton).

But it gets better. Along for the ride, the incomparable Isaac Hayes as the Duke of New York, a kind of capo di tutti cappi of the roving prison gangs. All roads to the president must lead through him.

snake_escape_from_new_yorkThe New York City streets have seldom looked this mean (in truth, they’re actually St. Louis). The one shot that is The Big Apple is perhaps the most ironic and iconic: the tracking shot of Lady Liberty, holding her torch above this newly-created urban penitentiary.

The dystopian cityscape is a wonder. John Carpenter’s direction is simply stupendous. The man really outdid himself here.

As gorgeous and compelling as it was upon first release, you owe yourself to see this thriller.

There’s talk that Escape from New York is being set up for a reboot: Fox has obtained the rights, though it’s too early to know anything further.

**** (out of 5)