Review: Green Room

You expect a horror film to make people jump in the cinema, but in the UK it’s not often you hear someone shout out. That was the case for me, until I saw Green Room – an unbelievably tense, violent thriller – which caused one guy at a point of shocking, extreme violence – to shout “HOLY SHIT” (making the rest of us laugh at him, talk about embarrassing!). The film is furiously quick, well-acted and much more disturbing than you expect it to be, and if you enjoy your horror or thrillers, see this!

Arrogant but naff punk band the Ain’t Rights are touring the north east US and doing so poorly they siphon petrol instead of buying it. When a local DJ sets them up with a well-paying gig at a neo-Nazi club in the middle of the woods (yes, exactly), they do it for the money, and play a tense set. However, on returning to the green room – that place in any venue whee the ‘talent’ waits to go on stage – band leader Pat (Anton Yelchin) sees something he shouldn’t have, and all hell slowly, horrifically breaks loose, with racist club owner Darcy (Patrick Stewart) taking matters into his own hands.

I really can’t say anymore about the plot, because it’s worth seeing it unfold. Suffice to say, for just over an hour and a half long, Green Room is a spectacular achievement in both horror and thriller genres. The band are self-righteous morons, sure – which makes it hard to care that much about them – but from the minute they agree to the gig you feel uncomfortable, and writer and director Jeremy Saulnier adeptly constructs the tension and grim atmosphere, before unleashing it in frenzied, shocking jumps. The characterisation and the script give the film a little edge too, with sympathetic and unsympathetic characters on both “sides”, and really intelligent scripted points where the story tilts, cleverly subverting your expectations.CYyjh3cUwAAVoxw

If there can be said to be a main star, it’s probably Yelchin’s Pat, who’s that bit more normal compared to macho drummer Reece (Joe Cole), Sid Vicious-like singer Tiger (Callum Turner) and sardonic guitarist (and sole female member) Sam (Alia Shawkat). I liked how the band’s relationship was built up in early scenes, and the actors are natural enough to make their group seem believable. Later, when everything goes mad, Shawkat and Yelchin show much more acting ability, and the fate of the band members is always up in the air – it’s unpredictable who might end up hurt or worse. I didn’t find Reece or Tiger interesting, but as a group the four are believable, and as humans in such a horrific situation, they are too.

Imogen Poots’ Amber, a club regular stuck in the green room with the band, is far more interesting in that she’s unpredictable, and offers something a bit different – reflected in the band’s mistrust of her. On the other side of the door, I have to start with Patrick Stewart. Playing gloriously against type, everyone’s favourite English baldy (sorry Jason Statham) is a gruff, eerily calm figure, placidly planning every next chilling step while worrying about the bottom line for his business and the ‘movement’ (a true believer where the younger neo-Nazis may well just be fooling around. Basically, it’s no surprise that Stewart is at the front of all marketing for Green Room (see right).

His second-in-command, Macon Blair’s Gabe, is a perfect contrast, a hangdog face implying inner doubt and concern, giving the viewer the sense he might (or might not) feel conflicted, and he offers some depth to the right-wing side of things. Other smaller characters are more or less there to look menacing or thoroughly violent, and this works, because you get this overall impression of a place you really, really wouldn’t want to be unless you’re also a white-power psychopath. However, Saulnier makes sure to give these scumbags some depth, with Mark Webber’s Daniel one particular thug given some depth.

This movie, I have to say, is really not for the squeamish. I’ve never seen a reaction like that guy in the cinema, and the quick, shocking gore – portrayed incredibly realistically – is clever and at the same time grotesque. Because it’s more of an independent film – it’s clearly not got a huge budget – it feels more real, more down-to-earth, and the attacks and injuries seem that much more real as well. Many of you will have been in clubs as dirty and grim as this one, and that attention to detail adds a gritty, realistic feel. Also, should you have a fear of dogs, do not watch this film – just don’t!

The soundtrack from Brooke and Bill Blair rumbles menacingly around the edges, but their clever use of really heavy death metal and hardcore punk adds further aural stress to the events. The cinematography of Sean Porter is also worth a mention, as the muted and oppressive setting is really strengthened by that gloomy, death-like glow of the club’s lights, and you realise after a while that the colour green is always lingering in the background – making everything seem sickly and wrong.

All-in-all, as a horror/thriller/cinema gore fan (how they make these things look so real is fascinating to me), I was not disappointed – it’s a smaller movie hitting way above its weight, and while the acting won’t win any awards, the simple plot, unrelenting threat and uncomfortable tension combine to make a furious, volatile must-see.

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