Director Writer: Jeremy Saulnier
Stars: Anton Yelchin, Patrick Stewart, Imogen Poots
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Run-time: 95 minutes, Rating: R
Release: April 29th, 2016
An electrifying jolt in a stagnant genre.
Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, akin to the music of punk-band the Ain’t Rights, is shockingly wicked and sends chilling energy through the body. The movie uses a fairly straight-forward premise-after witnessing a murder in the green room of a neo-Nazi club in the Oregon backwoods, the Ain’t Rights must survive the inevitable onslaught. While the plot is simple, the depiction of the terrifying night’s mayhem is brutally realistic and just plain hard to watch. This is where the film truly stands out amidst a stale horror genre saturated with over the top gore fests and laughable writing, as the well-orchestrated tension and unrelenting yet calculated violence proves unnerving.
With a short run-time, the exposition does seem to drag on a bit without properly introducing the characters, my main criticism of the film. We do see beautiful aerial shots of Oregon’s lush vegetation in the amber sunrise as the band’s van travels along the highway to surreal ambient music. It’s a gorgeous sight, though we don’t know anything about where these characters came from or where they plan on going in their lives. While the tension is gripping and the violence is disturbing, the emotional weight of the events could have been increased with better characterization. Nonetheless, their performances are all great, they panic and pace back and forth, cursing at themselves and at each other while trapped in the green room, waiting in unbearable tension as Darcy (Patrick Stewart) and his skinheads scramble outside to “contain” the situation. Even during the fighting, the characters behave like real people, scared and ill-equipped to handle the terror. Anton Yelchin solicits sympathy from the audience, playing an insightful artist and compassionate human-being. Basically he’s himself. Stewart is cold and commanding as Darcy, and gives a great performance undoubtedly.
When the band’s frantic negotiations fail, violence ensues. It reminds me of 2011’s You’re Next, where a similar plot structure forces characters trapped in a house to fight back against a murderous siege. Just like in that film, Amber (played by Imogen Poots) proves to be a strong-female character with a knack for fighting back. During the night’s terror we nervously fidget on the edge of our seat, rooting for the characters to survive, desperately ignoring the reality that these band mates stand no chance against threatening skinheads armed with machetes, shotguns, and vicious, snarling attack dogs. Oh it’s terrifying, and makes for one hell of a thrill ride, but most importantly reinvigorates a genre that too often leaves audiences laughing rather than scared. Green Room silences that laughter.
Rest in peace Anton Yelchin, you were a charismatic young man, and the wonderful contribution’s you made to cinema at a young age are uncontested.