Green Room is directed by Jeremy Saulnier (who also did the very good Blue Ruin) and follows a small time punk rock band who after witnessing a murder at a run down clubhouse for Nazi sympathizers in the arse end of nowhere are left trapped and forced to survive against a group of mentally unhinged skinheads.
If you have seen Blue Ruin (and you should) you will recognise Saulnier’s style right off the bat. There aren’t many location shots but what there is tons of is dank and dark mood with primary contrasting colours. The majority of the film is at the clubhouse and calling it a shit hole would be an insult to shit holes everywhere. Black graffiti stained hallways are as present as sofas that have been ripped to shreds by god knows what in that one bar that once held a rock night we swore we would never go back to. The Aint Rights are the featured hardcore punker’s and also fit this grimy backwater setting to a tee. Their self-righteousness and purposeful anonymity from social media on the face of it is what carries the band from gig to gig, caring only slightly more if they get paid than if they have to siphon petrol from parked cars. You get the feeling that much of the bravado about selling out and listening to the ‘pure’ live music is to cover their insecurities of failing to make it big, as later on when playing ‘desert island discs’ their answers differ dramatically from those said in a radio interview. It is an interesting dynamic and is not really explored that fully and could have added some substance to our leading group.
Anton Yelchin (Star Trek) is a highlight as part of the band that is also made up of Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), Joe Cole (Peaky Blinders) and Callum Turner (Victor Frankenstein). The rest go about being an unusual group trapped in an equally unusual situation as well as can be expected but stand out is clubhouse leader Patrick Stewart. His calm and passive voice in most situations would be comforting but here it only proves to be menacing and adds to ramp up the tension from what was already a pretty tense situation. His demenour on the face of it lends itself to being trustworthy but instead it is effective in luring those around him to not only do his bidding but to manipulate the siege that is taking place.
Green Room is a psychological thriller first and a gore/horror in the vein of ‘Your Next’ second. The areas everyone has to deal with are compact and filled with presence be it physical or charasmatic. This is also followed with extremely well controlled, if not infrequent, gore. It is controlled in that the way that the fact something has happened is never really a surprise, but the brutal way it is portrayed is what is quite shocking. The lack of a score at times has en eerie effect on the scene that makes each slice, bite or gun shot have that much more of a messy effect on the viewer. Visually there is plenty to get involved with as the plot reveals itself and its editing is one of the stronger elements that draws the viewer in. The effects and make up crew get a shout out for how genuinly rank many of the wounds come off as being.
Though this story is very insular in nature there is not much information on our main characters to give insight into why they react the way they do. There are a couple of secondary character arcs shoved in but really only serve to move the plot forward at a brisk pace. The lack of depth to these characters doesn’t hinder Green Room the way it might other films as throughout the 90 or so minutes you are watching as you are mostly captivated from the first scene to the last. It is quite a testament to Saulnier’s film making that he can make this film as watchable as it was despite some of the characters making stupid decisions. It’s one of those things that infruriates as it can imply that the story is sloppily written as it forces the main characters to act in a certain way just to get to the third act. Saulnier has previously said this is a deliberate element of his storytelling and creates scenes where logic takes a back seat to primary instinct to tell a unique story, ultimately leaving it up to the viewer whether to be on board with it or not.
This psychological thriller is not as scary as much as it is disturbing in the way that you get this genuine feeling that this could happen to anyone in those circumstances. Thoroughly well made with the ever watchable Patrick Stewart featured it is a good 90 minute film that is quite off beat and its ability to get the pulse racing is worth the price of admission.