It’s incredibly fortunate that Green Room is only 95 minutes in length because it is an incredibly gruelling suspenseful horror-thriller that leaves its audience in tatters. Ultimately, the premise is nothing new, but director Jeremy Saulnier has certainly set the bar for low budget siege thrillers.
The film begins with a journeyman punk band called the Ain’t Rights syphoning petrol from cars in order to get home from an unsuccessful tour. They’re down on their luck, demoralised and destitute. Fortunately, (or not as it turns out) they get the opportunity to play a matinee gig to alleviate their money troubles. The downside however, is that the gig is at a run-down creepy bar in a secluded woodland and the audience is a group of neo-Nazi white supremacists. With great naivety, the band don’t recognise the potential danger they face and without any tact, play a song charmingly entitled “F**k off” which is received poorly, oddly enough. To their credit, the band turn the set around and get a decent reception. But just as they are all set to leave, one of their number walks back into the green room having forgotten his phone and stumbles upon a scene that incriminates their hosts. As expected, events take a dramatic downward spiral from then on.
And if you happen to be squeamish, then avoid what follows at all costs because Green Room does not shy away from violence. But to its credit, despite other reviewers citing and focussing on this level of violence, unlike other such films in this genre, it never feels gratuitous. The violence is matter-of-fact and in particular, gun-shots are incredibly loud, realistic and shock the audience. The violence is such that it aides the edge-of-the-seat tension and feeling of dread because the stakes always feel incredibly real. And as the various band members try to figure out their escape, this sense of dread and nervous anticipation increases ten-fold and never falls into parody or cliché like many other films of this type.
Green Room successfully stirs up all the emotions that it aims to achieve. But furthermore, it is also elevated above so many other slasher-horror films as despite clearly being low-budget, it is incredibly well put together. Even with a slightly anti-climactic ending, at a 95 minute run-time, the film is taut. Every second of screen-time counts and there are no real dud moments. The music of the Ain’t Rights feels authentic, their situation not too contrived and amongst all the grim violence, there are genuinely funny moments.
Then there’s the trump card, of which the film uses to maximum effect. Patrick Stewart. At first it seems so bizarre to see such a thespian, Hollywood actor in this low budget horror B-movie. So much so, that for a brief moment, you could easily lose fixation on the film itself. But then it all makes sense. Stewart is terrifying as the ruthless, pragmatic leader who subsequently becomes battle commander of the neo-Nazi group and his charisma lends an element of plausibility that underpins the film. His dialogue in particular is both entertaining and frightening, and the questions he poses hit home with the audience as much as it does with the entrapped band.
Green Room is not the most original film you will see this year. However, it is certainly one you will remember and it has all the makings of becoming a cult classic. The only issue stopping it is whether the film has much replay value, where inevitably it becomes less suspenseful. But this is a minor complaint and Green Room is far from being a one-trick pony. Without doubt, it is the best horror-thriller this year.
Reviewed by David Sanders