★★★★ out of ★★★★★
A pastel-colored, surreal satire on middle class American culture, this dark comedy has the feeling of nightmarish menace constantly bubbling under the surface or lurking just around the next corner.
Directed by Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe
Fright-fare film fans looking for something decidedly different but absolutely horror adjacent need look no further than the surreal comedy Greener Grass. This highly offbeat satire on middle class American suburbia features a killer, a shape-shifting boy, a David Lynch vibe throughout, and a John Carpenter-like score, for starters. Make no mistake, though — despite nodding to its influences, this is a wholly unique motion picture that heralds great promise for two bright new filmmakers.
Co-writers, co-directors, and co-stars Jocelyn DeBoer (Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead ) and Dawn Luebbe (Gary Saves the Graveyard ) have crafted a wildly imaginative, thoroughly unique slice of cinema that immediately places viewers in an initially familiar but soon altogether strange world, where in the opening moments of the film, mothers Jill (DeBoer) and Lisa (Luebbe) discuss the murder of a yoga instructor by a killer given the handle of “The Bagger Murderer,” and then Lisa offers her newborn daughter to Lisa to keep, and the latter takes her up on her offer. People use golf carts exclusively to get around because why stray away from your home so far as to need a car? All the adults wear braces, despite the fact that most look like models already. Things just get weirder and more absurd from here, and it is a wild, uncomfortably hilarious, pastel-colored ride throughout.
The film is a comedy of manners, and none of the characters try to have more manners than Jill, who goes out of her way to be nice no matter how much passive aggressiveness is being shown to her by Lisa, or straight-up rudeness from others. Greener Grass mines awkwardness and uneasiness for much of its humor, usually with winning results. At times, Greener Grass feels like an extended sketch show riff with humorous commercials, but overall, DeBoer and Luebbe keep things on track and deliver a satisfying package.
Midsommar may be pushed as the first horror film to take place completely in the daylight, but Greener Grass ups that daylight ante with a sunshine-filled world that looks like a town of Barbie playsets come to chilling life, with everything captured to brilliant perfection by cinematographer Lowell A. Meyer (Thunder Road ). Samuel Nobles’ score provides terrific accompaniment, from the aforementioned Carpenteresque music, to soap opera embellishments, and beyond.
Besides the unsettling, off-kilter factors already mentioned that make Greener Grass horror adjacent, there is a constant sense of malevolence in the film, as it feels like something terrible is lurking just around the corner or ready to smash through the thin veneer of the overly perfect town in which the story is set. This is part of its Lynchian vibe.
Whether you come to IFC Midnight’s Greener Grass out of curiosity for its fear-fare leanings or for its bizarre, farcical take on modern society, the film offers plenty to laugh at, to wonder about, and to chew on. One of the most creative and original films of the year, it is coming off of its highly successful film festival run and opens theatrically on October 18th in New York and Los Angeles. It will also be available On Demand from that date.
Review by Joseph Perry
Here is a link to the original short film, which contains material reworked for the feature film version that some may consider spoilers: