Jeremy Saulnier’s sophomore movie, Blue Ruin, by-and-large slipped under the radar for a lot of people. But those that managed to catch it witnessed a tense, brutal tour-de-force; a stunning, bloody revenge picture that lingered long in the memory. Fortunately, for those of us excited to see how he would follow it up, much the same can be said about Green Room.
Green Room follows punk band The Ain’t Rights as they struggle on tour, finding themselves stranded with little money and even less gas. A guilty-feeling promoter hooks them up with a last-minute gig at a club out in the country, but when the band turns up to discover the venue full of white power skinheads, their evening goes from bad to worse. After an incident back stage causes The Ain’t Rights to hole up in the titular green room, they find themselves stuck on one side of a door with a gang of angry skinheads on the other.
Without giving too much away, Green Room‘s strengths lie in its realism; the practicalities of covering up a crime, the reality of life on the road. In another movie, much of what is featured in Green Room might have been covered in ten minutes, but Saulnier’s pragmatic approach mean the horrors that unfold pack one hell of a punch.
Where Blue Ruin was a bloody, visceral revenge movie, Green Room is a bloody and visceral siege movie. We are stuck in the green room with the band, and the chaos explodes around us. At times, the audience is left unclear where they are and what’s going on – just like the characters. We share in their panicky, directionless escape attempts.
Performance wise, everyone is uniformly great. But in particular, Anton Yeltchin manages to banish memories of his irritating turns in Star Trek and Terminator Salvation with a genuinely likable and believable performance. Macon Blair, Alia Shawkat and, of course, Patrick Stewart also stand out. But do not be fooled by the presence of the loveable-in-real-life Patrick Stewart; he is playing decidedly against type here.
Punks on film have somewhat of a chequered past, from the sublime (We Are The Best, Suburbia) to the abjectly wretched (SLC Punk, Godmoney). But Green Room might well be the first movie to accurately portray the glitz and glamour of a D.I.Y. tour ““ sleeping in a stinky van, playing gigs to nobody, getting paid nothing. To that end, instead of the usual contrived, caricature punks that frequently make their way to the big screen, Green Room‘s authenticity hits its target, and the movie feels all the more convincing for it.
About two thirds of the way through Green Room it dawns on you what it is you are watching…a horror movie. And a brutal one at that. That said, there is still room for some dark, gallows humour throughout.
If there is a minor quibble, it’s that the film suffers at times from Mumbly Dialogue Syndrome. As such, it does require a little more clarity in places, but those so inclined to go back for a repeat viewing are likely to find it. So while Green Room will not be for everyone, it is a stylish, gripping genre movie. For those that can appreciate taught, realistic horror, it does not compromise.