Jeremy Saulneir, who previously wrote and directed the well-received if not grossly underappreciated Blue Ruin gives us Green Room— a tense thriller that is both beautifully dark and unforgivably violent. This ‘death metal ballad’ is brought to vicious fruition by the very rockers who sing with the same ferocity as their eventual killers inflict pain. While its intentions may not be to glamorize murder, Green Room is not afraid to show the viscerally gruesome nature of the act. Evil is lurking and at a moment’s notice bursts through the seams of this expertly crafted, artistic nightmare.
Green Room focuses on a small heavy metal band, The Ain’t Rights, as they venture across Oregon looking to perform for just about any sum of money. Times haven’t been easy for this band, who believe in the integrity of music far more than its potential fame and fortune (which works out great because they are about as far away from those two things as possible). A few hundred dollars or so is enough to entice them to play a small gig located at a white supremacist’s compound. Talk about not selling out. Not surprisingly, the compound isn’t the safest venue and they walk into the immediate aftermath of a murder. These Nazi’s don’t seem too keen on letting the band up and walk away from the crime scene. Who would’ve thought?!
With a stage and scope this small, Green Room‘s sense of terror might have diminished if left in the hands of a less competent director, but Saulneir is more than capable. He takes a small idea and rather than feel restricted by its narrative confines, uses it as a way to explore the raw human emotion elicited by its desperate characters. And oh are these characters worthy of exploration. Patrick Stewart, who plays the white supremacist leader, Darcy, is a terrifying villain despite his sparse screen time and usual reserved persona. The band themselves are surprisingly resourceful and feel like average people having to respond to an anything but average situation.
Saulneir has one hour and thirty minutes to tell his story and doesn’t waste a minute of it. The film has this sense of controlled chaos both from the direction itself and the way Darcy handles the unusual predicament. The violence is so abrupt that once we understand the film’s ruthlessness, we cannot help but fear the unexpected.
In a nut shell: Green Room is an unrelenting, near perfect film in which Saulneir shows us his full potential when given a reasonable budget and the necessary actors to portray true sadism. It serves once again as a reminder that an overly complicated plot and big special effects are not essential to the horror/thriller genre. Green Room has just the right amount of artistic expression to leave a distinct imprint without coming off condescending. It’s inventive and poetic yet not out of the reach of the common viewer. It’s an absolute must see. (3.75 out of 4)