Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Patrick Stewart, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat
Watch Green Room online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
“You’re trapped. That’s not a threat. It’s a fact.” When someone says that to you from behind a locked door, it’s intimidating. When Patrick Stewart says it, and you’ve just stumbled across a murder, it’s downright creepy.
That’s the situation a small punk band find themselves in halfway through Green Room, Jeremy Saulnier’s bone-snappingly raw horror. The movie begins slow and small, as Pat, Sam, Reece and Tiger find their minor failure of tour land them in the backwoods of Oregon, playing to a bar full of skinheads. A cover of Nazi Punks Fuck Off later and the band name The Ain’t Rights has never felt more ominous.
But it’s not until they uncover the corpse of Emily in the green room after the show that things go wrong – and our musicians find themselves on the wrong side of a locked door, not to mention a club manager played by a former Starfleet captain. Stewart is deliciously menacing as Darcy, who is called in by bouncer Gabe (Macon Blair, reuniting with Saulnier after Blue Ruin) to resolve the situation. You don’t need to speak sinister to understand what that means, but Saulnier takes his time to spell it out, milking the back-and-forth through the door for every drop of tension.
The cast more than deliver, from Anton Yelchin’s likeable Pat and Alia Shawkat’s fast-talking guitarist, Sam, to the excellent Imogen Poots as Amber, Emily’s best friend. Stewart completes the set, serving up his softly-spoken facts with a whole heap of nasty gravitas. “You can’t keep us here, you’ve gotta let us go,” says one. “We’re not keeping you here,” comes the reply. “You’re just staying.”
The exchanges are interrupted by sudden bursts of violence – bloody, abrupt and brutally effective. Green Room earns its 18 certificate in no time at all. The only thing more shocking than how gory it is? How efficient it is at being gory; none of the graphic hacking, shooting or limb-shattering feels gratuitous, over-the-top or contrived, which only makes it all the more unsettling.
There’s a lingering hint of politics in the right-wing leanings of the villains on display in their flags and costumes and obedience to the “movement”, but our good guys aren’t necessarily that much gooder, and are allowed to become more complex than their initial introductions might suggest. The result works, above all, as a stripped-down, frantic fight for survival, a visceral thriller that’s put together with a ruthless precision, from the brief moments of dark humour to the use of background music. Throughout, Stewart quietly exerts his calculating authority. “I need some of the squad,” he growls. “Red laces only.” By the time the night is out, it’s hard to imagine anyone’s laces that won’t be.