Film Review: 'Green Room'
The setup of Jeremy Saulnier's indie flick Green Room sounds like it's trying extremely hard to be an edgy dark comedy: a starved up-and-coming punk rock band headed by Pat (Anton Yelchin) takes a gig at a secluded Virginia outpost. Thing is, they know the forested spot is a haven for fierce white supremacists (Hey, they need the money!). But Pat and his band, being as brave as they are, show up and play their show, and surprise, surprise: it's a really rough crowd.
So they take the money and go; it's not like they didn't already know to spend the least possible amount of time at a skinhead hangout. But poor guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat) forgets her phone in the green room and stumbles upon a murder scene when she goes back to retrieve it. Now, as witnesses, there's no way the bad guys are letting the kids go - especially when the joint is ran by Darcy (Patrick Stewart), who's a special kind of creepy and calculating.
Green Room is a grisly thriller, and says it loud and proud with intense, loud sequences and nauseating helpings of gore. Box cutters meet necks and arms, while blood spurts from bullet holes in heads pretty frequently. But instead of being Pat and his crew are neither relatable nor likable, so the many scares of Green Room lie almost exclusively in shock value rather than in genuine fear and apprehension. The kills are definitely grisly, but when they''re not being inflicted on someone cared for, they're just moderately difficult to watch.
There's an overarching tone of despair while the band and fellow captive Amber (Imogen Poots) struggle and scheme to make it out alive. So Green Room is just as interested in being a haunted house film as well, where not everybody makes it out alive, and some unlucky kids are picked off one by one. But the concept has been better executed elsewhere - even with the indubitable Stewart and his veteran presence among a young cast. For what it's worth, Saulnier, a younger director, has a lot to build upon with his understanding of horror/thriller elements and an eye for sadistically insane villains. The band members die so that Saulnier can grow.
But in a film saturated with green color-correction, does little to garner sympathy for the there's little we feel for the band members beyond their fear of their violent captors. The movie frequently, but sporadically, commands attention, and garners little interest - a critical component not just for thriller movies, but movies in general. At least it's mercifully short, and the ending is awkwardly cute enough to roll into the credits with a smile.
Rated R. 95 minutes.
Written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier.
Starring Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, and Patrick Stewart.