Backwoods gig becomes bloody living nightmare
Starring Patrick Stewart, Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots
Directed by Jeremy Saulnier
In show business, a “green room” is the spot backstage where performers go to relax, hang out and kick back before or after a show. It’s usually a secluded place of high spirits and hospitality.
But not in this wickedly sharp thriller-chiller horror show about a band of young punk rockers whose gig turns into a ghastly fight for their lives. Barricaded in the club’s grungy green room, they square off against the owner and his army of neo-Nazis when a shocking episode of violence becomes a raging nightmare.
Anton Yelchin (Chekov in the Star Trek movies), Alia Shawkat (from TV’s Arrested Development), Callum Turner and Joe Cole play the members of the Ain’t Rights, whose unlikely booking at a backwoods roadhouse full of white supremacists turns into a bloody standoff when they stumble onto the aftermath of a “crime of passion” and can’t get away before the owner (Patrick Stewart) tries to frame them for it—and eliminate them along with all the evidence.
British actress Imogen Poots has a key role as a club patron who inadvertently becomes part of the mayhem as the young rockers—who play music steeped in destruction, doom and death—find out how they fare when suddenly faced with the real thing.
In his debut mainstream theatrical feature, director Jeremy Saulnier, 36, shows an incredible amount of promise. He takes his time setting up the story and establishing the characters, patiently drawing the audience into the subculture of their musical world and their low-rent camaraderie—a slog of constant touring to crappy gigs in their old van, living on food scraps, siphoning stolen gas and playing loud, anarchic songs to indifferent or sometimes hostile listeners.
Saulnier gets the details just right: life on the road, the band’s dedication to their music, their banter and their interactions—and how actual people might react, think and speak when they find themselves in the middle of a situation that suddenly, unexpectedly becomes gruesome and deadly. As another band rumbles through their songs onstage, the dark, ominous tones reverberate through the walls of the club, into the bowels of the green room, like the howls of a great, angry beast.
The movie has the gritty, grubby feel of a film-festival, midnight-madness indie, especially when it gets down to the bloody business of slashing, hacking, shooting, stabbing, ripping and tearing. Who will escape, who will survive? It’s not for the queasy or the faint of heart, but Saulier makes inventive use of his set and props, including the squeal of PA feedback as a weapon, a fire extinguisher and a permanent marker first seen in a band prank.
But the real treat is watching the classically trained Stewart, best known as Star Trek’s wise Capt. Picard and as Professor Xavier, the benevolent leader of the X-Men, in a role that stretches him so far in the other direction. In Green Room, he’s one seriously scary dude mixing evil and eloquence, refinement and malevolence, and hell-bent on maintaining order anywhere things get messy. His harrowing performance gives this raw, edgy, awesomely impressive, little hard-hitting punk-rock movie even more of a visceral kick.
—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine