Once in a great while a film comes along and just totally blows away your pre-conceived expectations. Such is the case with the superb survival thriller “Green Room”. I had been hearing rumblings about this film for a little over a year, and finally got a hold of it when it was released this past Tuesday. I am almost mad at myself for waiting so long to see it. Believe the hype, this one has it all. It’s the most fun I’ve had watching a movie at home in a while.
This is the third feature film from director Jeremy Saulnier, who’s quickly becoming a filmmaker to take notice of. I admit I was already of fan of his after seeing his outrageously over the top debut film “Murder Party”. It was a ridiculous film, but it shows the burgeoning directors deft hand at pacing, humor, and set pieces. His follow up film “Blue Ruin” proved that he could tackle more dramatic material with the craft and expertise of an experienced artiste. “Blue Ruin” still holds a place for me as one of the most authentic revenge thrillers ever made. Saulnier continues to grow as a director, and this statement is further solidified with “Green Room”
In fact, authenticity is the first word that comes to mind with “Green Room”. Before we get into that, here’s a brief run-down of the story. Punk rockers the “Ain’t Rights” are on hard times making ends meet. There are a few name actors among the punk group, most notably, the late Anton Yelchin in one of his final roles and Ali Shawkat from “Arrested Development”. The gigs are few and far between for the rockers, and the money is pretty tight. Hell, even siphoning gas to get from A to B is not off limits. After getting nearly stiffed on a gig for a college radio DJ, the DJ gives them a tip about his cousins’ bar out in the boonies. The DJ warns them that it’s a bit of a rough crowd, “mostly boots & braces”, which is apparently slang for skinheads. However, the gig pays, and better than they’re used to.
Upon arrival it is definitely a seedy joint. The band loads in, and is warned that the owner “doesn’t fuck around with fire codes”. They are told not to leave their gear lying around, and not to go anywhere that’s off limits. As the band takes the stage, they have the brilliant idea to cover Dead Kennedy’s “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”. Maybe not the best decision considering the venue, but a pretty punk rock decision. The expression goes to know your audience, but maybe you shouldn’t insult them in their own home.
After the gig, the band is packing up when one of them remembers that they left their phone in the titular “Green Room”. Upon entry, the musician walks in on a gruesome murder. It is here that our tale of survival begins. It is apparent that the Nazi punks aren’t going to let them leave, so it’s time to fight or die trying. Another great revelation in this film is the club’s owner played by none other than the phenomenal Patrick Stewart. This is probably his creepiest role to date, and I hope to see more from him in this vein, so let’s “make it so”. As stated earlier the owner does not “fuck around”. When he shows up, his serious demeanor lets us know that things are about to go from bad to worse. He brings a charm and sophistication to the role, which actually makes the situation so much scarier.
Now back to the authenticity. This film plays by the rules of logic. People make rational decisions, and hatch some very believable schemes. People, who would presumably know how to use guns, know how to use guns, and bullets actually kill or injure to the extreme. Not too many flesh wounds here, injuries incapacitate, and cuts bleed…a lot. It’s almost blood chilling actually how devious and capable some of their adversaries appear to be. I admit that there were a few gasp-worthy moments as events unfold. It’s a smart script, and it’s makes you feel as if the events on screen could actually happen. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. It was nice to see a film that lets the audience use their brains, and gives us a little credit as intelligent beings. This does not mean the film is predictable, far from it. It gives us that fear that anything could and might happen.
This film has been pigeonholed as a horror film, which I can understand, but I think that does it a disservice. Sure it’s violent, but I think many people will avoid it simply because it has been flown under the horror banner. “Green Room” deserves to be seen by a much larger portion of the film community. I have recommended it to a number of people who claim to hate horror films, and I haven’t gotten a single negative comment. I just use an arbitrary term like “thriller” or “survival drama” when describing it and no one has argued yet. Whatever you want to label it, it’s a damn good movie and a lot of fun. I can’t stress enough that Jeremy Saulnier has proven his mettle with “Green Room” and I can’t wait to see what dark rabbit hole he leads us down next. After this one and “Blue Ruin”, I can only imagine what depths of human depravity he has yet to show us.