I have been looked forward to Green Room for quite awhile. I was hooked when the film’s killer trailer was released a few months back. It was the extremely rare (and specific) horror movie that about punk rock music and it’s darker, less seen side. My interest only increased when critics I respect and generally agree with came out raving about the film. With the film finally getting a wide release I have finally gotten the chance to see Green Room.
Things go wrong for punk band The Ain’t Rights (featuring Anton Yelchin and Alia Shawkat) when a major show gets cancelled. Stuck away from home and with little money they hesitantly take a gig from a group of Neo-Nazis. Things go haywire when the band witnesses a murder. Stuck in the green room they have to figure out a way to escape from the skinheads led by club owner Darcy (Patrick Stewart).
From interviews I read writer and director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Murder Party) has a history with the punk scene and it shows. Whether it’s struggling to tour or trying to survive a hellish night there is an emphasis on DIY ethic very much alive in punk rock today. Even the Mrs., much more into punk than I ever was, was sure to mention how real the grimy club most of the movie takes in felt. This level of authenticity is not only admirable but makes the movie way more immersive than most similar thrillers.
The griminess doesn’t end with the film’s aesthetics though. Green Room has a brutality to it rarely seen in most mainstream horror films. Each cut has weight to it. Every stabbing is full of malicious intent. The thing is it isn’t gratuitous or done just to be gross. All of the bloodshed feels like it has a purpose.
A lot of this has to do with the cast. Led by Pat (Anton Yelchin) The Ain’t Rights feel like a punk band from the start. From siphoning gas to having to crash on couches they show a very punk rock and endearing DIY ethic. The film could have been a mockumentary tour diary for The Ain’t Rights and I would have been totally fine with that. Luckily things start to hit the fan and blood is shed they are just as realistic. No longer the boisterous punks covering the Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punk (F–k Off)” to a room of white supremacists their tough facade quickly disappears to show a group of 20-somethings that are terrified. Sure some are braver than others but for the most part they just want it all to go away. It isn’t until the end that we get any kind of heroic comeback and even our survivors are tentative to kill. This kind of realism really make this movie stand above the rest.
When it comes to the acting the real highlight is Patrick Stewart. What could have been typical stunt casting turns into an absolute compelling performance. Coming in the handle the situation he brings the regal air to him that you expect of Patrick Stewart. He has a calmness and control over the situation that is a perfect counterpoint for the band’s panicked state. Much like Tom Cruise in Collateral or Denzel Washington in Training Day it really makes you wonder why he isn’t cast as the villain more often.
We are nearly halfway through 2016 and it’s already been a pretty great year for genre film. From arthouse horror (The Witch) to martial arts movies (Ip Man 3) the majority of releases have been worth seeking out. Heck even the typical January Wasteland (The Boy) was a fun watch. That all said, Green Room stands above the competition. From the stellar cast to it’s unrelenting plot it hits all the right notes. Writer and director Jeremy Saulnier has been someone to watch out for for awhile now. With Green Room it’s easy to see why.
For the record, my island band is Nas. Eminem if I am being super honest and about to fight neo-nazis.