For some reason, I never got around to watching Green Room when it was released a few years back. I’m not sure why; Green Room is directed by Jeremy Saulnier, who directed Blue Ruin, a film I liked. It seems Saulnier and I are kindred spirits. Grim bastards who’d think a happy thought was an aneurysm. I had heard Green Room was pretty grim too. SPOILER: It is.
Green Room is about a down-and-out hardcore punk band, who are invited to play at a venue run by people with an unhealthy interest in small moustaches, Dr Martens, and outdated German policies. Yes, racist skinheads. Or, more accurately, American Neo-Nazis.
The gig goes surprisingly well. It’s only after the show when one of the audience members is killed that all goes Pete Tong. The band end up trapped in the venue’s Green Room (what, you thought this was about a room in the Hulk‘s house?), under siege by Nazis. Nazis who are led by…Patrick Stewart. Yes, old Jean Luc Picard has gone the way the rest of the French did in WW2 and surrendered to fascism.
I quite enjoyed Green Room. It doesn’t exactly set the world alight but it does try to separate itself in a number of ways. This is most apparent in the excellent cinematography which exploits every kind of green filter and green imagery.
Green Room is also more of a dark horror comedy than full blown horror. And part of the humour comes from it being set in the woefully underwhelming world of the local band. If you’ve been in a band or know people who have, then the early scenes of the band travelling miles in a cramped van to play to a venue of 5 unenthusiastic people, only to be paid $6 dollars each for their trouble, will hit home. As will the dark, dank, and uncomfortable Nazi clubhouse. I’ve been to enough venues where you’re scared to touch anything and are terrified of that one guy who starts awkward confrontations with everyone.
Saulnier is keen to subvert the expectations for this kind of ‘they all fall one by one’ affair. One of the Nazis is built up for this heroic heel-face turn, only to be killed moments later. The band, all punks, are revealed to be normal people with hidden depths. There’s a Chekhov’s gun set-up involving an attack dog which in any other film would be there for the brutal ending, but here the twist is just empty and depressing. And having Patrick Stewart as a leader of Nazis/Skinheads seems like stunt casting, but his affable yet evil performance is striking.
I’d give it my recommendation, simply for the fact it’s different and also because it doesn’t mess around. Saulnier makes it clear just about everyone involved will die, and horribly too. Channelling the energetic anarchy of the punk movement, Green Room flips off the rules and descends into extreme violence (for a non-torture porn movie). By the time 90% of cast are killed-off, there’s still thirty minutes left to go. One guy gets his stomach slashed open with a box cutter, the (almost) token girl is ripped to shreds by a dog, and another guy almost gets his arm entirely hacked off.
But really, the film features Neo-Nazis bastards being brutally killed in creative ways. What more recommendation do you need?