Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier’s thriller ‘Blue Ruin‘ took off above and beyond anyone’s expectations after a festival run a few years ago. Award-winning and one of the first VOD hits (in as much as that’s possible), the film established Saulner as a promising young talent. Fortunately, his sophomore effort ‘Green Room’ confirms that all the praise heaped on that guy was richly deserved. If anything, it’s an even better and more satisfying genre flick that should be a viewing staple for those who enjoy blood-soaked entertainment.
The film kicks off by following around a young punk rock band fronted by Pat (Anton “Chekov” Yelchin) and Max (Alia Shawkat from ‘Arrested Development’) whose career isn’t exactly thriving. After siphoning some gas and playing a pretty pathetic show in a diner, they accept a last minute gig simply to pay their way home. Unfortunately, that gig ends up being at a gathering of white supremacists. Their show goes well, but things take a troubling turn afterwards when the band stumbles onto a murder. They’re quickly locked in the room with a corpse, a burly punk and Imogen Poots in a bad haircut. The Neo-Nazis get paranoid (as they often do) and call up their leader Darcy (Patrick Stewart), who brings along a few backup Nazis with machetes and dogs. From there, things get ugly.
After spending just enough time rambling along with the bandmates to ensure that viewers are enamoured with them, Saulnier throws his film straight into siege/survival horror mode. The situation is hostile and intense, which Saulier milks for the maximum tension possible before releasing it with grisly bursts of violence and dangly bits of gore. The suspense is relentless and Saulnier cleverly toys with his audience by alternating between conforming to and departing from genre conventions. As with most films of this style, you can assume that the most famous faces in the cast will be the last ones standing , but aside from that, all bets are off.
The cast are also uniformly excellent, which really helps sell the intensity and believability of the somewhat ridiculous situation. In particular, Stewart is stellar as the villain (wisely keeping his performance subtle by evil Neo-Nazi standards), while both Yelchin and Poots do great work growing from lost kids in trouble into genre badasses. The only real bum note in the movie is the surprisingly soft finale given the wild ride leading up to it. However, even that kind of works since it’s ultimately a setup to a sick punchline that caps off the waves of dark humor.
By mixing genre knowhow, fantastic visuals, eccentric characters, bleak humor and cynical stylization, Jeremy Saulnier turns ‘Green Room’ into a horror thriller that you would believe the Coen brothers made early in their career if they were willing to dabble that deeply in the dark side. For this type of genre flick, there’s no bigger compliment.