‘Green Room’ is a gory, wildly effective horror thriller
PHOTO BY A24 FILMS
Where is it playing?: Downtown Centre
What's it rated?: R
What's it worth?: $Full price
What's it worth?: $Full price
A punk band playing a remote gig in rural Oregon inadvertently witnesses a murder, leading the skinhead group responsible to go to great lengths to cover up the crime and stage an elaborate “accident” to dispose of the witnesses. Written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier, the film stars Anton Yelchin as Pat the bassist, Joe Cole as Reece the drummer, Alia Shawkat as Sam the guitarist, and Callum Turner as Tiger the frontman. Thrown into the mix is Amber (Imogen Poots), best friend of the slain girl. The five must face off against a cadre of skinheads led by Darcy (Patrick Stewart), their menacing leader. (95 min.)
Glen: Horror films are truly scary when their premise is at least plausible, which is why something like The Strangers (2008) is scary as hell and Van Helsing (2004) isn’t. Green Room begins by effectively introducing us to the band and their life on the road. After a gig falls through and they’re desperate for money, they reluctantly take the job at the skinhead gathering, figuring the $350 payday will get them home. Money in hand, they’re almost on the road when they return to the green room to collect a cell phone and find a dead girl on the floor. They’re forced back into the green room and held at gunpoint while Darcy is summoned to sort it all out. The writing throughout is brilliant, with clever plot twists and great development of Darcy’s cunning at covering up the crime. For instance, the band manages to call 911 to report a stabbing before the phone is yanked away. When 911 calls back, a skinhead named Gabe (Macon Blair) re-reports the “stabbing,” and Darcy pays two other skinheads to stage a stabbing so when the police arrive, they think they have their perp and victim in custody and leave, not knowing a murder victim lies inside the venue’s green room. The film eventually turns into a cat-and-mouse since the skinheads understand that people know the band is here, so they can’t just shoot them and hide their bodies. Instead, they plan to make it look like the band was siphoning gas and were attacked by the compound’s watchdogs. Naturally, nothing goes as planned … on either side. The ride is intense, gory, and riveting.
Anna: Saulnier does a fantastic job at making his audience feel trapped alongside the group of young musicians, whose desperation to escape literally has them tearing away at the walls. That coupled with the hulking presence of Big Justin (Eric Edelstein), one of Darcy’s willing henchmen locked in the room with them, leaves their hope of departing without incident quickly fading as the police Darcy promised them never show. Outside of the room we meet Darcy’s other faithful servants—the ones he trusts to kill for him, distinguished by red shoelaces. Stewart plays Darcy as a very calm and calculating leader, though just under the surface you can see every nerve on edge, every outcome brought about by whatever means necessary. He doesn’t get his hands dirty, instead he relies on this group of men to follow his instructions, no matter what they may be. The whole film exudes a sort of quiet panic, and the remote wooded setting outside juxtaposed with the claustrophobic green room had me on edge from beginning to end. It’s a great combination of suspense thriller and horror flick, staying realistic with the story but giving us that gore that horror fans love.
Glen: Panic is right, and the set-up reminds me a little of the Jodie Foster film Panic Room (2002), with a mother and daughter trapped in their safe room while menacing thugs try to lure them out. Finding no exit save the bolted door, the band members manage to dig through a subfloor only to find a heroin lab beneath and no way of escape. After making an attempt to run, which ends badly thanks to the skinheads’ fighting dogs and machetes, Pat and Amber retreat back to the green room and try to conceive of a way to overcome superior forces and save their missing friends if possible. Like a bloody chess match where the fallen pieces are actually dead, the battle plays out in surprising ways, leading to a showdown with an end that’s never certain. Not once did I feel like I knew what was going to happen next, and the story never felt far-fetched or contrived. I read that Saulnier used to front a hardcore band, and he uses those experiences of being on the road to create a realistic set-up. Once they get to the skinhead compound, it’s pure imagination. I’m so impressed with his inventiveness that I’m inspired to find and watch Saulnier’s early films, Murder Party (2007) and Blue Ruin (2013). This guy understands how to create tension. I loved this film, but be prepared: The gore is extremely realistic and sickening.
Anna: As much as I was rooting for the locked up bunch to make it safely out of Darcy’s sick maze, I was at the same time convinced they couldn’t pull it off. Every attempt ended viciously and claimed the lives of more and more people. When Amber and Pat decided to “go to war,” I had to keep reminding myself that holding my breath wouldn’t help them in the slightest. One thing that I really appreciated regarding the group holding the band hostage was that instead of presenting them all as one shade of evil, Saulnier gives us interesting variation in the characters, each with his own demons. Besides calculated and calm Darcy, there is menacing Werm (Brent Werzner), responsible for the witnessed murder, who is downright frightening and exudes evil. Then we have Gabe, who I found myself having a bit of sympathy for, looking a bit like a lost boy as he watched the terrible night continue until the very end and saw the true evil of the man he had been following. Overall, the film had really dynamic characters and gruesome plot twists that managed not to confuse, but to engage me till the very last line.
Split Screen is written by Staff Writer Glen Starkey and his wife, Anna. Comment at email@example.com.