Green Room is a brutal anxiety attack of a film. It heaves and explodes its way through a breathless ninety five minute run time, leaving you exhausted and shaken at the end. Where Blue Ruin hinted at the arrival of Jeremy Saulnier as talent to keep an eye on, Green Room has him kicking down the door and screaming down the halls as someone to pay attention to.
Anton Yelchin leads the cast as Pat, a member of Ain’t Rights – a hard core metal band. Rounding out the band is Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reece (Joe Cole) and Tiger (Callum Turner). Through a superb scene setting beginning, the stakes of the future of the band are presented and you immediately understand the hungry desire to get enough money to fill their van with petrol and move on to the next gig. Under less assured actors and direction, the anti-technology, uber-underground mentality of the band would grate, but here it’s a natural element of who these people are.
After their scheduled gig is cancelled, the pseudo-organiser hooks up the band with a gig in the middle of nowhere, playing alongside a few other death metal bands. Sure, it’s playing to the white supremacy crowd, but a gig’s a gig and it’ll at least deliver a few bucks. With their raucous set over, they stumble into a situation they shouldn’t have. From here, you better have your seat belt on, because the brutality is only just beginning.
Tension is a hard thing to maintain over the run time of a film – have too much of it and the film becomes intolerable, have not enough and it becomes a slog. Saulnier manages to balance the delicate line of extreme tension and quieter moments – even if the quieter moments are still backed by a constant ambient score by Brooke Blair and Will Blair; which provides a stunning hum that keeps your heart rate up at the moments where you’d think you’re able to catch your breath.
There is the old saying that if you notice a films editing, then it’s bad editing. But, it’s worthwhile noting the superb editing by Julia Bloch. When everything works together in a film, then it feels like a harmony. The combination of great direction, acting and writing sings, with Bloch’s editing bringing it all together brilliantly. Scenes that require piano wire like tension are given just enough breathing room before the next cut takes place. It’s something you shouldn’t notice, but it’s worthwhile pointing out why Green Room works so well at unsettling you.
As the band embarks on a one step forwards, two steps backwards escape from the titular green room of the venue they’re stuck in, they begin to be managed like cattle by Patrick Stewart’s Darcy and Macon Blair’s Gabe. Stewart is quietly great – as always – exhibiting a quiet control over the events of the film and the world he controls. Blair provides a stunned innocence as a face of a frightening group of individuals.
Peppered throughout the tension are explosions of brutal violence. It’s been a long while since the impact and outcome of violence has been depicted so realistically on film. When someone is stabbed, they don’t bleed like a ‘blood pack under a white shirt’, their guts are exposed and the blood seeps out. Gore hasn’t been this impactful since the height of the Giallo era of films. This almost feels like a Lucio Fulci film transported into America – where Fulci delved into the world of the unreal, Saulnier drags in the heightened reality of white supremacy within America. This feels all too real at times. All too relatable.
Green Room is caustic. It’s horrifying. Its brutality is horrifying, leaving a mark which you will no doubt need a cold shower to wash off afterwards. In the dying moments, Saulnier brings in a moment of humanity with a dog and its owner, reminding us that after all that has occurred, these horrific individuals are people too. No matter how much we may try and distance ourselves from these heinous walks of life, at our cores, we are all too alike. And that, after everything that occurs within the claustrophobic ninety five minutes of Green Room, is the most terrifying thing that remains long after the credits have rolled.
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Patrick Stewart
Writer: Jeremy Saulnier