Green Room (2015)
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner, Joe Cole, and Patrick Stewart
The first thing to know about Green Room is that there will be blood. Green Room delivers on the intense, gruesome thrills you’d want from a survival horror. The tension that is maintained throughout the film owes to the tightly paced and plotted screenplay by writer/director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin).
Pat (Anton Yelchin) and his friends are in a punk rock band named The Ain’t Rights. While on tour they take low-paying gigs and earn cash for gas; that is when they aren’t siphoning fuel from roadside vehicles. Desperate for money, they agree to play at a dive run by white supremacists deep in the backwoods. Soon after witnessing a horrific crime, the band members are held against their will in the venue’s green room and are forced to take drastic measures to make it out alive.
The set up has a familiar ring to it. A bunch of young kids get in way over their heads by being at the wrong place at the wrong time. What helps make the screenplay stand above this relatively standard scenario is how the characters, including the bad guys, are given choices along the way. When things take a turn for the worst, how far are these people willing to go in order to survive, to kill or to help each other? Another bright spot in Saulnier’s script is how the band dynamics play out in this life or death situation. The band is strongest when they make decisions together than when they act alone as individuals.
As grisly as things get, Green Room doesn’t just rely on shock value. The setting itself is a source of anxiety. These characters are trapped in a confined, small area with no hope of being rescued by the outside world. It’s also unsettling that the villains are an organized collective of criminals and murderers who harbor racist attitudes. Further, the script derives tension from these moments where the band members seem to momentarily gain an upper hand or a possible way out, only to end up in an even dire predicament.
Patrick Stewart who has played iconic good guy roles in Star Trek TNG as Captain Picard and Professor Xavier in X-Men wouldn’t at first be an obvious choice to play the lead villain. But intellect can be a scary attribute in a bad guy. Stewart’s character named Darcy has some shades of Breaking Bad’s Heisenberg in that he’s using his brain rather than brawn to methodically take out these kids like pieces on a chess board. Fellow Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin’s performance is solid, imbuing his character with enough likability and level headedness that’s needed for a viewer to root for him. The real bad-ass is Amber played by Imogen Poots, she’s got the survival smarts to go along with her unflinching ferocity.
Not everything hits the mark. Green Room isn’t free from some horror movie conventions such as a character saying “Let’s all split up” but at least it acknowledges these instances with humor. What doesn’t quite work is an important monologue before the last act which lands a little flat and tips its hand too much on how the rest of the movie will play out. Lastly, a more memorable or elaborate final confrontation would help give a stronger finishing touch.
While Green Room isn’t exactly genre-bending, it has enough of its own identity to set itself apart. If you think of survival horrors as a cinematic meat grinder, Green Room has got plenty of fresh blood and meat to make a satisfying meal. Writer/Director Jeremy Saulnier has a clear vision for gory, suspenseful entertainment that isn’t encumbered by a silly plot twist or unnecessary social commentary. Green Room is a recommended watch if you’re into bloody good thrills.