The positive critical reception of low-budget revenge film Blue Ruin helped served as a financial springboard for writer-director Jeremy Saulnier’s next project. Sticking with colour-themed titles, Green Room follows four-piece punk band The Ain’t Rights as they tour through the Pacific Northwest. Led by Pat (Anton Yelchin), the group find themselves gigging at a very shady, isolated bar where most of the clientele are vicious neo-Nazis. After their suitably riotous performance, they are horrified to witness a brutal murder in the venue’s green room, and are held hostage by Darcy (Patrick Stewart) and his gang of skinheads. The group, musically influenced by artists such as The Misfits and Minor Threat, come together in an intense battle for survival but in their situation the threat they face is far from minor.
The film quickly establishes the characters in the band, and the sense of camaraderie between the foursome. They fight, they bicker and they make fun of each other like any group of friends would but as they do there is an ominous atmosphere building which forebodes the danger they will soon encounter. This trepidation is amplified when the dead body is discovered and at this crucial point in the narrative, the genre switches from suspense thriller to endurance horror. Events that follow will have you wincing at the edge of your seat. Though it borrows from slasher tradition, it feels very modern and the use of violence is shuddering yet stylish.
The star of the aforementioned Blue Ruin Macon Blair continues his working relationship with Saulnier as venue manager Gabe, and his supporting role falls in middle ground between the goodies and the baddies. However, his impressive performance takes a back seat behind a surprising array of established British actors including Imogen Poots, Joe Cole and Patrick Stewart. Cole is unrecognisable as rough and ready rocker Reece, who almost seems to enjoy the violent challenge. Poots and Yelchin form an unlikely friendship when the reality of their peril sinks in and they contemplate the severe consequences. Perhaps best of all is Stewart in his menacing and merciless turn as villainous leader Darcy.
Green Room is survival horror in the best possible way, and though you’ll watch a lot of scenes through your hands you won’t want to look away. With no monsters or paranormal activity in sight, Saulnier cleverly creates nerve-shredding, claustrophobic fear that feels very raw and natural which makes it even more terrifying. There’s a recurring discussion throughout where members of The Ain’t Rights converse over their Desert Island Disc choices, choosing punk artists they can’t live without. If you asked the movie equivalent question to horror film fans in years to come, I would expect this future cult classic to feature.