Writer: Jeremy Saulnier
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart, Alia Shawkat, Macon Blair
Running time: 94mins
The lowdown: If you go down to these woods today you’re in for a very, very nasty surprise. Jeremy Saulnier follows the shattering Blue Ruin with a first class exercise in teeth-grinding suspense. A touring punk band sees something they shouldn’t when playing a remote white power bar and lock themselves in the artists’ “green room”. Outside some of the scariest people on earth are determined they’re not going to get away, with Patrick Stewart providing a masterclass in soft-spoken malevolence as the neo-Nazi ringleader. Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots (who appropriately starred together in the remake of Fright Night) are on top form as part of the group trapped in the room with no windows and one way out.
The full verdict: Blue Ruin was Death Wish played with unvarnished logic. Green Room sees writer/director Saulnier going slightly more mainstream in that the goodies and baddies here are clearly delineated.
The baddies sport shaven heads and Nazi insignia on their bomber jackets, brandish a variety of weapons and clearly are no strangers to dispensing pain.
The goodies are the one’s looking terrified.
Saulnier efficiently sets up the dynamic of the band, showing them eking out a living playing shitty venues, living in their van and jacking gas. Small wonder they accept the white power gig and its $350 payday. Even if their choice of opening song, The Dead Kennedy’s Nazi Punks Fuck Off, does little to ingratiate them.
After this set up and the shock reveal, it’s American History X meets Night of the Living Dead as the kids hole themselves up in the room while a murderous mob gathers outside.
Guitarist Pat (Yelchin) is made spokesperson, trying to negotiate safe passage with the chillingly reasonable sounding owner Darcy (Stewart) and his lackey Gabe (Blue Ruin’s Blair).
But, nothing is reasonable on this night.
Inventive and surprising with its plot twists, character revelations and expert blending of horror and thriller genres, Green Room never eases up on the tension or slips into stupid mode to keep the story moving.
Character actions are believable on both sides of the door and scorched onto the screen by a cast of faces familiar and unfamiliar. Yelchin proves he should be leading more movies, while an initially unrecognisable Poots continues to go for great, interesting films more than fluff like Need for Speed.
Be warned though, it is best to bring a strong stomach. When violence erupts in Green Room it and its after-effects are uncompromising; not everybody makes it to the closing credits with their body still in one piece and there is no certainty to who will see sunrise.
This is compound country and a ton of research clearly influences the modes of dress and speech, the details such as Darcy’s “elite squad” sporting red laces in their bovver boots, the white power slogans threateningly adorning the club walls, and weapon dogs taught to attack in German.
Explosive, frightening and one of the year’s best thrillers.