(dir. Jeremy Saulnier)
A punk-rock band fights for their lives against an army of skinheads.
Jeremy Saulnier’s previous film, Blue Ruin, was one of the most surprising films of 2014 in its authentic depiction of violence and revenge. With Green Room, Saulnier finds that same authenticity in the horror genre, so much so that I nearly hesitated to call it a horror film upon first viewing. Within the genre there’s often a separation between reality and fantasy, even in the most grounded of horror movies there’s comfort to be found in the fakery of it all. But Green Room is visceral to the point of deep-seated discomfort. It’s extremely gory, yes, but Green Room is not an exploitation film because there’s no distance from the violence. Where many other filmmakers would pull away from the acts of violence and allow it to happen off-screen, Saulnier looks directly at it, not only concentrating on the wounds inflicted but the pain of the characters at the mercy of their injuries. This is horror violence not made for enjoyment, but depicted to expose the nihilistic soul of modern America.
Green Room doesn’t just use punk music for the sake of a soundtrack, but allows it to exist within the very bones of the film. America is a nightmare, and punk music captures the discordant chaos of it all. There’s an unmistakable feeling of displacement for our young leads, Pat (Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reece (Joe Cole), Tiger (Callum Turner), and Amber (Imogen Poots). They find themselves in a desert island of the spirit, one that is only emphasized when they become the captors of Neo-Nazis. Music is seen as a communal experience, the only thing that gives the band, the Ain’t Rights, a sense of place and purpose, but violence is also a communal experience- a chaotic artistry that offers ties of its own.
Green Room finds its voice through descendants of violence. Patrick Stewart’s Neo-Nazi leader, Darcy, is the Iggy Pop of his world, an originator and icon of his specialized depravity. But his followers have become more chaotic, more disruptive, and unorganized—punks without a sense of purpose or commitment beyond labels. In many ways the young neo-Nazis aren’t so different from the Ain’t Rights. They originated from ideals that were made to push back against the changing world, but Green Room finds the world changed and those who inhabit it powerless to push back against it. By the end, neither music or violence can hold the world together and in the ruins of the things that our characters believed gave them purpose and identity we’re left with the anarchy that our characters could previously only imitate.
Scare Factor: 4/5 Green Room is unlike any other horror film you’ve seen. The tenants of the genre, dark corridors, mounting tension, and extreme violence are all there, but they work on a deep psychological level that exposes the horror of the human condition. Packed with stand-out performances, particularly from the late Anton Yelchin, Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room isn’t just a great horror film but one of the best films of 2016.