Somewhere between psychotic and iconic; somewhere between “I want it” and “I’ve got it”; somewhere between being sober and being lifted; somewhere between indie-punk-rock tour and withdrawn neo-Nazi grunge cults; that’s where you’ll find ‘Green Room’, red laces and all. The film dubbed by Quentin Tarantino as, “the most sensational and out of the blue film I’ve ever seen”, is a must see for anybody who’s into high-class chaos, vicious violence, terribly angry punk rock, not sleeping at night, or even the alluring Imogen Poots. ‘Green Room’ isn’t so much a horror film as it is a world-class, ecstasy-induced, thrill-fest set in the grungiest of territories, one in which we all can hope to never find ourselves…unless you’re into that kind of thing?
Starring Charlie Bartlett, Maeby Fünke, and Professor X…er I mean, Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, and Patrick Stewart, alongside Poots, Callum Turner, and not-the-footballer Joe Cole, ‘Green Room’ lives up to its billing with quality acting amidst the rampant bedlam. As Yelchin, Turner, Shawkat and Cole – whilst snagging the only gig their ambitious screamo band can find – come into a tiff with the local club owner and his angsty clientele, they find themselves clawing to make amends in any way possible. To be clear, by local club I mean, local to the supremely segregated, wooded neo-Nazi den of psychopaths far out from society, but close enough for the local State Rangers to pop in every once in awhile for a timely bribe.
So just how good is ‘Green Room’? Well it turns out Noah Jackson and Patrick Alexander are both huge fanatics after one viewing, so here’s their shared opinions. Let’s get started with the basics – the immediate reaction as the credits began to roll on ‘Green Room’. This is a film which starts off rather slow but by the end, had Noah rushing home to clean himself. According to Patrick, ‘Green Room’ is definitely one of those films which will have you texting everybody you know and postimg all over social media instantly after it ends trying to vent and hash out what the eff you just watched. Because you feel dirty, like you just watched German hentai porn in front of your grandmother for 95 minutes, but also you kind of feel mentally abused as it catches you so off-guard and hits so hard. After the opening 15 minute crawl, with no warning, no concern for pace or the viewer’s heart rates, it takes off at a dead sprint for 80 minutes full of lunacy, terror, really aggressive punk rock, hardcore neo-Nazi hate, and lots of violence.
The last movie that was as fast as this was probably ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, but it wasn’t necessarily as unexpected. But there’s another difference, which is our protagonist’s motives. In other action movies, the protagonist has at least a smidgen of an idea of what the hell he is trying to accomplish, for example ‘Die Hard’. But in Saulnier’s films, he has stated that he writes his leads as “inept protagonists” – and while this concept worked for something like ‘Blue Ruin’, a film in which the lead is on a bloody revenge path with no real plan – something about ‘Green Room’ suggested that the characters were written to be oblivious of their imminent danger, rather than painting it like the characters made a natural decision to insert themselves into that position.
For Noah, this was a bit of a misstep, but Patrick wonders whether this may be more of an indictment as to the dichotomy of ‘Green Room’ between being a thriller and a horror picture. Saulnier seemed to get caught up using elements of both, but with a complete view of the film you realise it leans more towards a thriller. However, going into it, many will be expecting a horror film, where the characters are usually less aware of what they’re getting into. So with that lens, it made sense.
In terms of tones and themes, the director’s commentary argues how color schemes aren’t really a large portion of his filmmaking, yet the color green runs through a lot of the scenery in this film. It’s everywhere except the place that the characters spend the most time. And Noah’s interpretation would be that as green is naturally the main colour, the hatred and predisposition for horror is also natural in humanity, as seen in the fact that groups like neo-Nazis exist. On a more basic level, there is a really gross tone of suspense. The green room is of course where bands or acts chill out pre-show to get ready, but in this instance it’s not your typical green room. There’s no relaxation going on in there, no hanging out and having a good time. For Patrick, this contrast is huge – in that the setting betrays its own name.
Flaws are few and far between in this film. As Patrick always says in his reviews, the best films are the ones you don’t expect. ‘Green Room’ was really unexpected all around. Patrick, however, found that the film has no shame with gore and racial hate, which can both be really dicey topics to cover. Yet, ‘Green Room’ does both with – class isn’t the right word – but perhaps respect. The one big plot flaw I saw revolves around the police scene. Look, I’ve been arrested and cops NEVER go about things the way they did in the film, especially in this case. What kind of cops don’t sense the suspicion in the air at a secluded Aryan Brotherhood punk rock club? Not to mention the amount of incredibly stupid decisions made by the main characters. Some of the decisions come out of nowhere.
Patrick Stewart plays the coolest character in the story because while he isn’t necessarily dominative on screen, one can never tell what he is really thinking, despite the instructions and reasons he gives his cronies. It’s a brilliant performance that had me on edge for a solid 70 minutes straight. He plays it so close to the vest that you can never get his objective. Does he really only want to kill the Ain’t Rights (the band)? Or is he willing to negotiate? Is he trying to hide his lair under the club? What are his motives? You never know for sure.
For Noah, the decision in choosing to watch a film is heavily based on a director’s repertoire and experience, meaning that new directors who create legitimate movies really are something special. Yet, sometimes if a newer director casts incredible actors, it seems that an aspect of the job is done for them. From a guy like indie director Jeremy Saulnier, whose credits include the cult films ‘Murder Party’ and ‘Blue Ruin’, it’s rather surprising to behold his capabilities with top tier actors like Stewart, Poots, and Yelchin. Saulnier is becoming a very exciting director; he’s an edgy director, who hasn’t gone mainstream yet, so we must enjoy that whilst we still can. The likes of Yelchin, Poots, Shawkat, and Stewart are talented actors, who perhaps make up for some of Saulnier’s eccentricities, but truth be told you could’ve casted this film with a bunch of nobodies and it would have been just as awesome. Those brand-name actors helped thrust ‘Green Room’ into a more marketable tier, but Saulnier’s writing absolutely blows you away.
Something Saulnier noted, in an interview with Vox about his “little punk rock war movie,” is that he didn’t want to go heavy on character backstory and recalling past traumas. Saulnier chose to trust his actors to perform physically and have a natural charisma that made the characters feel like the viewer is with them. And that would help the audience “get” who those characters were at their core while filling in the gaps with the viewer’s own imagination. In having no backstory, that makes the characters feel more like stock characters and not like people, which inevitably makes them less relatable. Nonetheless, it worked in terms of pacing because the movie would’ve been a drag with any backstory scenes before the carnage begins. That’s why it worked; if they had gone back in time, the foot comes off the gas pedal and ‘Green Room’ possibly loses its insane momentum. It truly was an adrenaline rush.
Overall, the film was a solid surprise that really has you on the edge of your seat. ‘Green Room’ is an experience of its own. It’s a must-see for any horror, suspense, or thriller fan. The acting was good, the story premise was an original twist, and the overall technical aspects didn’t have any glaring flaws. ‘Green Room’ will definitely fit somewhere into many people’s top movies of 2016 lists.
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Imogen Poots, Anton Yelchin