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{Panic Fest Movie Review} Greenlight (2020) A Little Bit of Giallo in Hollywood

I reviewed Greenlight as part of our Panic Fest coverage. For all of that coverage go here.

If I am being perfectly honest sometimes I find movies about making movies a bit mastabatory. Its precisely why I hope Parasite wins best picture and I just kind of liked Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Greenlight’s description sets it up to be one of those movies. It’s definitely not. Sure its a movie about the film industry but unlike other similarly themed movies it doesn’t take itself overly serious and those rounded edges make the movie a ton of fun to watch.

Chase Williamson plays Jack a wanna be director with a supportive girlfriend who is desperate to make a career as a movie director. But you see, to get hired to make a full length movie, you have to make a full length movie. Its this catch 22 that leads him to the open arms of a movie producer Moseby played by Chris Browning. Browning plays Moseby with such slime he seems to be one part oil monster. That oil monster offers Jack a movie called The Sleep Experiment. Once the movie gets up and running the fun begins.

Director, Graham Denman offers enough of the movie industry to keep me interested while at the same time puncturing the Hollywood bubble that feels so ubiquitous. Denman clearly likes Brian De Palma there are a ton of references to him and the movie carries with it an aesthetic that is inspired from some of De Palma’s earlier features. That being said Greenlight shares more space with 8mm than it does Bonfire of the Vanities.

The second act seemed a bit slow. While Jack figures out what he is willing to do to make a successful film the audience spins its wheels a bit. As the movie moves along it defines itself more as a thriller and less of a horror movie and it totally works. Jack is in over his head and Greenlight totally gets how any new professional feels when they are starting their careers, especially when the veterans around them are not interested in making things easier.

The color palette definitely leans into a Giallo aesthetic. Its one more cue that Denman is bringing something different. The color pallete is not the only thing that shares that space. As the movie establishes the set as a different world with different rules it harkens back to the original Suspiria. There is no doubt Jack is talented but the rules of the powerful behind the scenes want to use his talent for nefarious purposes. Starting to sound familiar? That being said it is not nearly weird enough to fully embrace that label. As the movie progresses I wanted a little less linear plot. Characters whose motives were a little more dubious. Maybe just a movie that was less cut and dry.

The ending is not quite as interesting as the rest of the film but it was sufficiently twisty. I wish it would have leaned in a bit more to the Giallo aspects it works so hard to establish earlier in the film, and left things a bit more ambiguous in the third act. At the end Greenlight “told a good story” which is exactly what one of the characters tells us is important. Using that standard it was a success.