Greenlight (2019) [Shriekfest 2019]

A young filmmaker gets the opportunity of a lifetime to direct his first feature film based on the talent anhard work shown in his short films and a little luck. However, a few strings come attached to the offer.

Based on a story by Graham Denman, written by Eric England and Patrick Robert Young, and directed by Graham Denman, Greenlight is a film about making it in Hollywood and what some may or may not be willing to do to get their careers going or to stay on top. The film and story can be viewed as very meta and perhaps quite self-reflective on the parts of the filmmaker and writers. Here, a young filmmaker is given a first feature that is low budget horror, which Greenlight also is, and which is where many starting filmmakers get their feet wet in feature films. Greenlight also is a film about the industry, about making a film, about hopes, aspirations, fears, etc. The film within the film is fairly interesting and feels like a feature that would be given to a first time feature director. The film about a film concept is something that is seen semi-regularly, particularly in horror. What sets Greenlight apart from the majority of offerings in this particular sub-genre is how things are approached and developed. Here, the characters are well built, their struggles and how they react to things make them feel relatable and help them connect with the viewer.

Playing the lead of Jack is indie horror regular Chase Williamson who brings a strong performance to the screen. He takes Jack and makes him human, giving him depth and nuances. His reactions to the situations he finds himself in dictate how well the film connects and he thankfully feels and comes off natural and organic in a way. Williamson’s performance grounds the film and gives everything going on around him a likable, human center. Supporting him and doing notably interesting work are Chris Browning as producer Moseby, Caroline Williams as Nancy, Evanne Friedman as Shantel, and Victor Turpin as Damien. Also noteworthy is that not a single performance here is off or bad, showing great ensemble work and direction.

Greenlight is a carefully crafted film with attention given to details giving it a look that elevates its most likely low budget and making it feel much more expensive. The lighting is a great example of this. Here, lights are used for more than just making things visible, they are used to set mood and tone in a great way that brings them into the story and helps create the visual aspect of it. This is all made both more obvious and more organic by the cinematography by Powell Robinson. The images and their careful framing give the film even more visual interest and attraction. Completing the visual hat trick is the editing by Paul Matthew Gordon which gives scenes long enough to play out when needed and moves on faster at other times. This allows the viewer to actually see what is going on. Nothing here is being hidden by editing tricks or quick cuts to leave the viewer second-guessing what they saw. Between the editing, the cinematography, and the lighting, it’s clear that Greenlight is confident in what it wants to show the viewer.

Greenlight shows that with talent, determination, and a small budget, a great story can be brought to the screen even if it takes a lot of time and effort. The meta part of the story helps connect the film with its director and its audience while the horror/thriller aspects of it give it a broader appeal. Greenlight is a film that never feels long and has a clear goal that it’s not afraid of going for. Yes, it’s a film about making a film, but it’s much more than that. Its underlying themes and the way it approaches everything gives it something special that will attract more than film fans. Greenlight has a broader appeal while still feeling very genre grounded, it’s a fun watch and has a lot to offer the viewer ready to give it a chance.