Green Room (2015) / Thriller-Horror
MPAA Rated: R for strong brutal graphic violence, gory images, language and some drug content
Running Time: 95 min.
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Patrick Stewart, Imogen Poots, Joe Cole, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner, Mark Webber, Macon Blair, Eric Edelstein, David W. Thompson, Brent Werzner, Kai Lennox
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Screenplay: Jeremy Saulnier
Review published April 30, 2016
Touring the Pacific Northwest, the D.C.-based punk quartet known as the Ain't Rights haven't quite taken this part of the country by storm, ending up taking a bit of a detour from their tour to secure some much-needed gas money for the cross-country trip home by playing in a backwoods Oregon roadhouse for skinhead neo-Nazis. After the gig, they stumble into a room backstage and discover a young woman murdered on the floor, and the skinheads culpable aren't going to just let them walk out after they've alerted the police. As Darcy (Stewart, X-Men: Days of Future Past), the dive club's owner, wants to keep all traces of their activities, illicit and otherwise, from being discovered by the cops, they stage a cover-up story while the Ain't Rights are locked tight in the room. Knowing that things aren't going to end well for them, it's up to the band to try to figure out a way out of the situation before they end up the next victims.
Jeremy Saulnier follows up his cult indie thriller Blue Ruin with another sure-fire cult thriller, tinged with horror elements, in Green Room, which seeks to show what happens when musicians who explore a counterculture form of art actually confront the most extreme of listeners who find empowerment in the hardcore music. Saulnier gives us just enough character development among the band to sympathize with their plight, as well as to get us to boo and hiss at the vile neo-Nazis they find themselves surrounded by.
Tension and confusion are established almost immediately once the dead body is discovered and it only escalates from there, not entirely playing out in a manner that escape-horror thrillers tend to, leaving many scenes with that kind of palpable edge that keeps you reeled in to the immediacy of the terrifying situation at hand. Its non-romanticized authenticity into this subculture of underbelly America is also impressively brought out within the film, capturing the look, style, attitudes, and connection to the music that is rare in a prominent big-screen release, which tends to relegate most punk aficionados as misfits or perpetrators of disdain at all times.
Starkly photographed to accentuate the greys of the wardrobe and the green of the surroundings, the cinematography from Sean Porter (Kumiko the Treasure Hunter) is as equally effective in evoking a mood as Saulnier's tight direction in this claustrophobic siege flick, a visceral homage to those horror classics of yesteryear, including the music of the era. There's a fine cast of actors here, who all play believably within the specific moment, with an impressive performance by Patrick Stewart, cast against type, as the slithering leader of this most unsavory community of disaffected, fascist youths in the area.
Green Room will definitely not be to every taste, as it is quite grisly and graphic in its depiction of violence, full of machetes and lethal attack dogs, which will cause all but the most hardened of gore hounds to avert their eyes from the screen in a few viciously presented moments. It's a bleak and disturbingly uneasy experience, but done with such skill that it's too riveting to stop watching, even when it seems so hard to stomach the escalating dread and stench of death in the air. Sill flying under the radar, Saulnier continues to be an auteur worth looking out for.
©2016 Vince Leo