More noise than signal

Green Room

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

Jeremy Saulnier’s previous film, Blue Ruin, met with quite some acclaim, however I’ve not got round to watching it, apparently prioritising the likes of Gods of Egypt because I’m a moron. Still, with his latest, Green Room, if anything gathering even more acclaim, I felt I owed him the courtesy of watching this.

We’re introduced to a somewhat irritating young punk bank composed of Pat, Sam, Reece, and Tiger, respectively Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole and Callum Turner who are pointed in the direction of a gig by a local radio DJ, which unbeknownst to them turns out to be a neo-Nazi hangout.

Now, if there’s one thing I hate more than colonial Belgians, it’s neo-Nazis, and the only thing I hate more than neo-Nazis are Illinois Nazis. Despite taunting them with a Dead Kennedy’s cover at the start of their set, a gig’s a gig, and they finish up and prepare to leave. However in what turns out to be a mistake for the ages, Sam realises she’s left her phone backstage in the green room .

They barge in to retrieve it, only to find a dead girl and her shocked friend, and a couple of the club’s bouncers who then hold them at gunpoint. The club manager Gabe (Macon Blair) consults with the owner Darcy (Patrick Stewart) on how to unpick this mess, and decide that offing the band is the best course of action. In the interim, Reece has managed to overpower one of the bouncers and get the gun, briefly giving them a small amount of leverage, forcing Darcy to come up with alternative means of getting them out of the room and into the path of the attack dogs he intends on using to help cover up the real reason for their deaths, with the band doing their best to frustrate and escape them.

Now, for 45 minutes Green Room is a very effective thriller that to a point recalls the likes of Assault on Precinct 13, and I am very much on board this train. There then comes a point where it takes a very firm swing over to the slasher horror, and I am still on the train at that point, but if the train had left from that destination I probably would have sought a replacement bus service. I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean. Look, if it was a horror all the way throughout I probably wouldn’t care much for the film, is probably what I’m trying to say.

But I have to admit, Green Room works. Certainly much better than the horror turn taken in the recently discussed Bone Tomahawk. A lot of that’s due to the cast, in particular the sadly deceased Anton Yelchin who has always had a knack for getting more out of underwritten roles than you’d have thought possible, and in this role where he’s actually given something to get his teeth into he’s very effective.

The other side of the intrigue coin has the head of Patrick Stewart on it, who does not need to prove his acting chops but does so anyway, with a great, restrained, underplayed turn that’s much more chilling that the perhaps more obvious frothing, screaming loon path that a role such as this would typically take. The cold, business-like nature make him an really effective villain, and it very much helps that his character is written as a character, and not a one dimensional scream-bot.

We should note in passing that there’s some really graphic violence on display, which is disgusting in the dictionary definition of the term and adds to the effectiveness of the horror – certainly leagues away from the fetishisation of brutality seen in the likes of Saw.

There is something that stops me unconditionally recommending Green Room, and I’m not completely sure what it is. It’s not the transition to horror, which is as well done as it could be. It’s well-written, well-paced, well-acted, and doesn’t pull any punches. It’s all the things I’d be looking for, so I’m going to put it down to watching it on the wrong day and give it a thumbs up.