Synopsis: The members of a punk rock band are forced into a desperate fight for survival after they witness a murder at a backwoods neo-Nazi venue.
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole
Release date: 13 May
Running time: 94 mins
Writer-director Jeremy Saulnier scored something of a cult hit in 2014 with stylish indie revenge thriller Blue Ruin.
Bolstered by a superb young cast and boasting a killer punk soundtrack, his latest film, Green Room (hopefully he’s got a colour-themed trilogy planned), takes a similar approach to horror, and the results are slick, suspenseful and satisfyingly grisly, confirming the writer-director’s promise as one of the most exciting new voices in current U.S. genre cinema.
“Things go horribly wrong”
Set in backwoods Oregon, the film stars Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole and Callum Turner as punk band The Ain’t Rights, whose disastrous financial situation forces them to play a gig at a neo-Nazi skinhead bar in the middle of nowhere.
Despite the fact that they open with a cover of The Dead Kennedys’ Nazi Punks – F**k Off!, the gig goes surprisingly well, but things go horribly wrong when one of band accidentally witnesses a grisly murder in the green room, forcing the band to fight for their lives as the neo-Nazis, led by bar owner Darcy (Patrick Stewart), are determined to eliminate all witnesses.
Saulnier has assembled a likeable, easy-to-root-for cast that includes Brits Cole and Imogen Poots (as a traumatised friend of the victim, who gets trapped with the band), both of whom nail the American accent.
Yelchin, in particular, is excellent as band leader Pat, while Stewart visibly relishes the chance to play evil for a change and turns in a suitably chilling, disturbingly calm performance as the improbably named Darcy.
(There’s also a good role for Blue Ruin star Macon Blair as Darcy’s main henchman – Saulnier, it seems, is nothing if not loyal to his friends).
“Cranking up the tension”
Saulnier keeps tight control of the material throughout, expertly cranking up tension and prolonging the inevitable onslaught of violence by having the band initially barricade themselves in the green room, generating an intense and terrifying claustrophobia.
In addition, he orchestrates a number of memorably nasty set-pieces, with characters meeting their ends in extremely grisly ways (there’s a believable use-whatever-comes-to-hand approach to weaponry), and incurring various wince-inducing injuries as they attempt to fight their way out.
On top of that, Saulnier’s script makes strong use of humour to off-set the mounting levels of gore, particularly in the interactions between the band members and an enjoyable running gag where they each try to name their Desert Island Bands.
Stylishly directed and impressively acted, this is a gripping, grisly, gory gift for genre fans. Saulnier’s next film can’t come soon enough.
This review follows a preview screening at Glasgow Film Festival – which continues until Feb 28. Green Room will hit UK cinemas on general release in May.