Title: Green Room
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Major Players: Patrick Stewart, Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Macon Blair
Out Of Five: Four
At Sundance London a couple of years ago, I saw Blue Ruin, the film that introduced us to director Jeremy Saulnier. Its distinctive style mixed thriller with something close to horror, almost Grand Guignol. Now he’s back with Green Room, easily his best yet.
The Ain’t Rights are a down-on-their-luck punk rock band, travelling round the mid-West on a zero budget that only allows for syphoning petrol. They get a gig at a roadhouse but what they’re not told is that it’s the meeting place for a gang of white supremacist skinheads. Their set over, they’re about to leave when they come across the aftermath of a brutal act of violence and they can’t be allowed to leave. So begins a game of cat and mouse – and the occasional dog – where the odds are stacked against them getting out alive.
So does Saulnier have a colour theme going on? He says not, but if he has a trademark colour, it’s red. Blood red. There’s been media reports of people being physically sick while watching the film and, while that didn’t happen to me, I have to say there are a couple of particularly gory moments. One involves the death of a thug and, in truth, doesn’t need to be so graphic: the fact that some other gruesome scenes involving savage dogs are done very effectively with subdued lighting and sound effects rather proves the point. But when a band member sustains a gruesome injury, we do need to see it. Twice, in fact. And who would have thought that duct tape had a medical use as well?
While Blue Ruin was less about the thrills and more about the gore, in Green Room Saulnier has got the balance right. This time the suspense makes your nerves jangle to the point of being unbearable. Best of all are the scenes when the band, trapped in the green room of the title, are talking to the skinhead leader on the other side of the locked door. He is Patrick Stewart and, while to them he sounds plausible, we’ve seen him already and we know that he’s anything but. His casting shows that Saulnier can now command a star name, so you can’t blame him for milking Stewart’s first appearance on screen. All we see is the back of his head.
There’s a strong thread of dark humour running through the film, most of it coming from the band’s unexpected ally, Amber (Imogen Poots), the eye witness to the act of brutality that started everything. She gets the lion’s share of the one-liners and the one at the end of the film is a corker! Despite her feather hair style and almost permanently dozy expression, she also turns out to be the most resourceful of the lot, almost a latter day Ripley but without the cat.
Green Room isn’t for the faint hearted. But it is for anybody who likes a good thriller and, if they like it served with a dash of horror, then so much the better. It’s also a definite step up from Blue Ruin and Saulnier has left us wanting more. Much more. Which means we’re all gagging to know what he’s going to do next.
Green Room is in cinemas now and was reviewed on Talking Pictures on Thursday, 12 May.