It’s much easier to explain what GREENER GRASS wants to be rather than explain what it actually is. It’s wholly aware of its audience and is hopeful that they will seek out the film to partake in its bizarre delights. It’s the type of film that speaks for itself, and it wants you to know that it just might be your next midnight cult movie obsession.
The dark comedy marks the debut feature from Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe and is based on their acclaimed short film of the same name. The two respectively play Jill and Lisa: two soccer moms residing in a strange town where every family strives for perfection. All of the adults wear braces, each family can be identified by the color of the clothes they wear, and everyone’s vehicle of choice is a golf cart. This sounds innocent enough, but the bubble in which they live has a dark side. Houses and possessions can be swapped just as easily as family members. Soccer games are played on top of graves. Oh, and did I mention that the town may have a serial killer on the loose? While the film doesn’t follow a straightforward narrative, it ultimately boils down to the friendly rivalry between Jill and Lisa as they compete to be as polite as humanly possible.
With features based on shorts, an immediate concern is whether or not a premise is stable enough to warrant a 100 minute-long project. By embracing its warped vision of a 1980’s American suburbia, GREENER GRASS’ world feels familiar, like the classic family sitcoms that warmed your television screen as you drifted to sleep. Through its bizarre rules and world building, however, it offers a unique vision that is solely that of its creators, making it easily one of the most distinguishable films shown at What The Fest!?
Utilizing a healthy dose of zooms, an unsettling synth score, and sun-baked lighting, GREENER GRASS is an 80’s horror film offering a satirical perspective on American family dynamics and neighborly discourse. It’s evident that great lengths were taken to achieve its tone and visual flourishes. Aesthetically, it’s incredibly thoughtful and reflects the film’s universe. For instance, as explained by the filmmakers during the post-screening Q&A, each family in the film is color-coded, meaning that each family member dresses up in one specific color. As Lisa and Jill’s family quarrels progress throughout, the colors of their clothing begin to blend together. It’s undeniably impressive how GREENER GRASS is able to stay consistent in its world building. There are only a few instances in which the events strayed into “random for the sake of being random” territory, but even they can be considered as complementary to the downhill spiral of the film’s characters.
As satire, GREENER GRASS succeeds in presenting serious topics in a way that’s digestible and often quite clever. One particular highlight is when Lisa and Dennis’ son accidentally watches a violent television show called “Kids With Knives” and, in a matter of seconds, is corrupted into a demon/child hybrid. When asked about it, their explanation is simple: “Oh, yeah. Bob is evil now.” It’s a brief but brilliant examination of the narrative that violent entertainment creates violent people, acknowledging the role that parental negligence can play in a child’s upbringing.
GREENER GRASS wants to be a midnight cult classic. It’s a carefully assembled series of vignettes set in a universe that’s as gleefully absurd as it is disturbing. It’s a calling card for Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Duebbe as two undeniably talented and singular artists. It’s like watching an anxiety attack through an Adult Swim kaleidoscope.
Like all midnight cult classics, however, only time will tell if it finds its audience.