“Green Room” had a limited theatrical run two weeks ago, but gets a wide release across the country starting tomorrow.
Reece (Joe Cole), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Tiger (Callum Turner), and Pat (Anton Yelchin) are members of a punk band known as The Ain’t Rights. They’re currently on tour and barely scraping by while siphoning gas to get from one location to another. After a tour stop proves to be worthless, the promoter, Tad (David W. Thompson), gets them a gig in Portland that’s sure to get them back on track.
The gig turns out to be a bar in the middle of the woods that caters to neo-Nazi skinheads. The Ain’t Rights reluctantly perform, but Pat stumbles onto a dead body in the green room afterward while club regulars Werm (Brent Werzner) and Amber (Imogen Poots) leer over a(n eventually) bloody corpse. While retrieving Sam’s phone, Pat calls 911 before club bouncer Gabe (Macon Blair) retrieves it. The band is locked in the green room and held against their will while another bouncer named Big Justin (Eric Edelstein) watches over them with a loaded gun. Club owner Darcy Banker (Patrick Stewart) makes arrangements to not only cover up the stabbing called into the police but also plans to dispose of the witnesses as quietly as possible.
From writer/director Jeremy Saulnier (“Blue Ruin”), “Green Room” is a horrific thriller with intensity that is practically unparalleled as far as films released thus far in 2016. The gore happens so suddenly, but when it strikes it is gruesome in every sense of the word; cuts are to the bone with appendages barely hanging on by a thread, dogs viciously attack throats, shotgun blasts are swiftly aimed at the face, and machetes chop away at flesh until an individual succumbs to an extremely bloody demise.
Saulnier takes an interesting approach to the horror genre though as “Green Room” isn’t just a balls out horror film with its disgusting junk hanging out right from the get-go. Like the Darcy Banker character, the crimson mayhem is strategically arranged in a way that almost makes the audience feel like they have to earn those shocking moments. This is a film about an unknown band with very little success facing a drastically life threatening situation first that transitions into a survival horror film with comedic cues that almost feel like an afterthought.
Speaking of Darcy, Patrick Stewart’s performance has quite the reputation. That hype practically kills the momentum of the character. You hear how twisted Stewart is in the Darcy role, how you’ll never look at the English actor the same way again, and how it’s one of the most memorable performances of the year. While most of that is true, Darcy isn’t some maniacal super villain that cackles away as he reveals his devious plan to a group of unsuspecting teenagers. Darcy is the mastermind of this clan of skinheads. He has a thinking process and is smart when it comes to killing innocent people. Stewart brings that concept to life effortlessly as you can practically see the wheels turning in his head at all times.
It’s intriguing to see Alia Shawkat, best known as Maeby Funke on “Arrested Development,” in a horror film. Next to Stewart’s notable performance, Anton Yelchin is also impressive as Pat. At first, Pat seems like the type of laid back guy who goes with the flow. He has strong opinions about where he wants his music to go, but generally goes with what the rest of the band decides. Once he’s asked to choose one band to listen to while being stranded on a deserted island, it’s as if his character matures in a matter of minutes. Pat is in shock, cowardly, brave, calculated, and compliant all in the span of about 40 minutes. Yelchin strums through a wide range of emotions as if he was flipping through pages of the phone book.
Imogen Poots is incredibly compelling as the unpredictable Amber, as well. Amber goes through this evolution of sobbing maiden in distress to a hardened action hero throughout the events of the film. She has this darkness to her that you never see coming until it’s too late. Poots adds a complex layer to the character that allows you to cheer for Amber yet always feel cautious around her.
“Green Room” launches you into this grungy world of punk music filled with Nazis and twenty-something-year-old kids who couldn’t care less and fuses it with the viciousness found in Joe Carnahan’s “The Grey” along with the dilapidated ambiance of “SLC Punk” and shades of “The Cabin of the Woods” to deliver a one-of-a-kind experience that is terrifically unforgettable. Jeremy Saulnier has surely proven he knows his way around gritty cinema.