Tag Archives: Jeremy Saulnier

TIFF18: Hold The Dark

Three children have gone missing from a small, very small, very isolated community in Alaska, snatched by wolves. One of the grieving mothers, Medora (Riley Keough), hires wolf expert and writer Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright) to track and kill the wolf or wolves responsible.

But the wolves are not the villains of this story.

First, the Alaskan landscape. It’s frozen, much colder than what cold passes for MV5BODYwNTY5MDcxMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjAzNDQxNjM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1487,1000_AL_anywhere else. It’s unforgiving. It’s unknowable. It’s remote. There are only 5 hours of daylight at midday. It’s a blank canvas, a blanket of white, relentless and renewing, where even your own footprints are quickly snowed in and covered over; one wrong step can mean the difference between life or death. It’s no place for a novice like Core, but he’s got some demons of his own that keep him from making better judgments.

Second, the village. Or rather the villagers. They’re an insular tribe and don’t take kindly to outsiders. The environment is hostile in every sense of the word. They don’t cooperate with the law.

Third, the grieving parents. Grief makes a person crazy. Some people were crazy to begin with. Medora was on her own when her son went missing, her husband Vernon (Alexander Skarsgard) away at war. Injured, he gets sent home to a probably-dead kid and a mentally disturbed wife. There aren’t a lot of times when war is the preferable scenario, the kinder one, but I think this it.

I read the novel upon which this is based (by author William Giraldi) but this screenplay is adapted by the twisted mind of Macon Blair, so I know I’m in some sort of trouble. He’s beefed up the part of Vernon for Skarsgard, sure, and he also makes sure every bit of violence is as graphically gory as possible. What else do we expect from a Jeremy Saulnier movie? The man loves to taunt us with threatening, ominous images and then leave us exposed to whatever chaos may come. It’s an exceptionally tense way to watch a film, but if Saulnier isn’t throwing you into minor cardiac arrhythmia, he feels you aren’t getting your money’s worth.

Saulnier is a master of making you shit your pants, and if anything, Hold The Dark is a little lighter on the anxiety-ridden dread. But while we buckle up for a movie about wolves and wilderness, it’s actually humanity who shows itself most vicious, and that’s all Saulnier. There are so many twists in the tundra it can be hard to keep them all straight, and you’re never quite sure just what kind of movie you’re watching, but it’s a bloody, vengeful rampage and it will not have a happy ending.

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Green Room

I think we can all agree that Jeremy Saulnier would make a terrible dinner party guest. He’s the writer-director of the most sadistic movies I’ve ever seen and I think someone needs to give him a houseplant and one of those sappy Hallmark cards with a nice beach scene on the front. Like, the man needs a hug only I wouldn’t recommend anyone get close enough to give him one. A man who makes movies this crazy has to be a little deranged, right?

Okay, I don’t really know a single thing about Saulnier, and judging by his IMDB profile pic, I’d say he’s a Mumford & Sons listening, Wholefoods shopping, Keds wearing dude like any other. Only he’s also a brilliant writer and director who just happens to like fucking with people.

I watched Blue Ruin all by my lonesome and survived. Green Room is even downloadmore of a trial. It’s about a not very successful punk band on a tour of tiny bars and rec rooms about to head home when they get one last gig that pays too well to ignore. They should have ignored it though because the neo-Nazis who show up to hear them play are a little more than they bargained for. Shit goes down, and it’s not just uncomfortable racist undertones, it’s more the literal tearing out of your throat variety.

It’s a horror-thriller that doesn’t apologize for relishing the bloodiness of greenroom4the genre, but this one has the surprising addition of exceptional acting. I liked Blue Ruin for defying my expectations of the genre, and Green Room of guilty of the same, to some extent. It has a real plot and a set-up that won’t make you cringe in its obviousness or its thinness. When Saulnier’s name is attached to a film (this is his third – the perfect opportunity, and maybe his only opportunity to indulge and be indulged in such a gorefest) you’re pretty much guaranteed a nail-biter. There’s breathtaking cruelty around every corner, but I was even more surprised by the tiny flickers of humanity that sneak up on you.

Green Room is not an easy watch, but if you think you have the stomach for it, you should probably put Saulnier on your watch list.

 

Scared Shitless: Alone or with a Group of Strangers?

So I finally saw the rest of Hardcore Henry. I completely stand by my review of the first 45 minutes and am only disappointed in myself that I gave this inexcusably boring failed experiment of an action movie a second chance.

Despite receiving some very generous reviews from some of our Honourary Assholes, Hardcore Henry didn’t quite draw the crowd that I was expecting. In fact, for the first time in my life, I found myself alone in a movie theater for a full 96 minutes.

Having the room to myself had its advantages. I didn’t have to glare at anyone for eating noisy nachos or checking their phone and could even feel comfortable to check my own phone whenever I wanted. I also got up and changed seats twice. I didn’t enjoy the Coming Attractions though.

Have you seen the preview for Lights Out?

It’s fucking scary!!!! Now imagine watching it in a big dark room all by yourself where the speakers are so loud that nobody outside would be able to hear you scream. I couldn’t help but look over my shoulder throughout the previews. They actually make these previews way too scary if you ask me. Here I am sitting down to watch a guilty pleasure action movie and am stuck watching terrifying clips of scary movies that I never would have consented to see.

This trailer didn’t have the same effect when I was forced to sit through it again, this time with twenty or so other people who came to see Green Room. There seems to be a feeling of strength in numbers when dealing with the paranormal. I didn’t know anyone else in the theater but I felt safer knowing that they were there.

That feeling of security didn’t last once Green Room started. If you haven’t heard of this (by my count) third feature from writer-director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin), it features a young punk band who barricade themselves in their dressing room after a controversial¬†set to protect themselves against neo-Nazis. It’s the kind of movie that makes you fear your fellow man and wondering what the guy sitting behind you is capable of.

Saulnier takes his time at first to give us a chance to start to like this struggling touring band. As the story unfolds and the sense of danger continues to intensify, it becomes harder and harder to guess what’s coming next. Which isn’t to say that there is any real mystery or even any major twists. Saulnier isn’t nearly lazy enough for that. He just presents believable characters in a credible (at least credible for this genre) situation and dares to ask “Now what?”. It’s a violent film with terribly violent things happening to its characters on both sides of the door. Somehow, however, it never feels sadistic or exploitative. Every act of violence in Green Room is presented as a terrible thing and, for once, there isn’t a single character that seemed to want this situation to turn this bloody.

So, to sum up, see Green Room if you don’t mind a tense and occasionally punishing 95 minutes, don’t see Hardcore Henry, and don’t watch the trailer for Lights Out alone.