Green Room has been available on Netflix now for a little while, but the blog is still in its infancy, and this is absolutely a film I wanted to review. Writer and director Jeremy Saulnier was the man behind the brilliant and unique revenge-thriller, Blue Ruin. Even without the critical praise heaped on Green Room, it was mandatory viewing with Saulnier’s name attached to it.
The Ain’t Rights, a down-on-their-luck punk band, take a last minute gig at a neo-Nazi bar after a show is cancelled. Following their set, the band inadvertently witnesses a murder backstage. Trapped in a dingy backstage room, knowing they’ll never be allowed to leave alive, the band must engage in a brutal fight for their survival.
A Brutally Intense Viewing Experience
For viewers who prefer gritty and intense films, Green Room is for you. While none of the violence and gore is over-the-top, Saulnier doesn’t let the camera shy away from any of the brutality. Instead he opts for a raw approach to filming the violence – arms are snapped, bodies slashed with machetes, and throats ripped out by dogs. The editing and camera angles don’t avoid the carnage. Even the most cynical horror fans will catch themselves sucking in their breath at some moments.
If Green Room was just an exercise in ugly violence, it wouldn’t stand out much from any other horror film. Fortunately, Saulnier balances his violence with lean, minimalist storytelling that delivers almost constant tension. At just over 90 minutes, Green Room wastes little time diving into the crux of its survivalist story. The initial standoff between the skinheads and band produces some wonderfully unpredictable suspense. To some extent, the movie descends into relatively familiar territory when the body count kicks it, but Saulnier maintains a handle on his story and never allows Green Room to feel derivative.
Lean and Focused Storytelling
Given the current political climate, Green Room would almost seem prescient with its subject matter and choice of villains. Anti-establishment punk rock musician versus Neo-Nazi skinheads sounds like a film ripe for political subtext. Filmed in 2014, Green Room actually has little in the way of intentional subtext. Saulnier’s film is lean and focused storytelling. This is pure survival horror with more interest in how quickly people can devolve into violence than larger sociocultural debates.
Green Room boasts not one but several stunning performances. Much of the praise for Green Room has been directed toward Patrick Stewart’s performance as the neo-Nazi leader, Darcy. It’s well-deserved praise for what’s a controlled and understated performance. Stewart’s calm, courteous demeanour masks a chilling and calculating villain that is among the more frightening cinematic characters in years.
Stewart’s calm, courteous demeanour masks a chilling and calculating villain that is among the more frightening cinematic characters in years.
In one of his final film performances before his untimely death, Anton Yelchin is no less brilliant as bassist Pat. It’s a very human performance, capturing the desperation and fear that one could imagine if they found themselves in a similar situation. Yelchin is vulnerable in his performance – he feels like a real person caught up in a rapidly escalating tragedy.
Yelchin’s bandmates – Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, and Callum Turner – are equally compelling and believable in their roles. Imogen Poots nearly steals the film as a drugged out skinhead looking to escape the lifestyle. Blue Ruin’s Macon Blair has a small role as a reluctant skinhead, but he continues to impress with his screen time.
One of the Best Horror Films from 2015
Jeremy Saulnier’s follow-up to Blue Ruin continued the building trend of outstanding independent horror films. In a year that included It Follows, The Visit, We Are Still Here, and Bone Tomahawk, Green Room still offered a uniquely intense horror experience. If you’re like me and spend a lot of time just browsing Netflix for something to watch and you haven’t seen Green Room, do yourself a favour and watch it.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: A