Green Room is a meticulously focused and provocatively intense thriller that shatters your nerves as it traps you in a very helpless, claustrophobic nightmare.
The premise to Green Room is largely clean and simple. It follows a young punk band who are touring through the Pacific Northwest as they struggle to find work given their unknown underground status. But after attaining what can only be described as “close to a proper gig as the band could get”, the group discover they are playing to a room of neo-Nazis in an isolated forest outside Portland – classy start. Once they finish their set, they stubble upon a murder and quickly find themselves fighting for their lives as Patrick Stewart (of all people) and his Nazi posse attempt to cover up the entire catastrophe.
I can best describe Green Room as a ‘raw contemporary’ thriller that feels cold, dirty and overall drenched in a unpleasant bleakness. The muddy green/blue colour aesthetic, the grim weather and the almost unhealthy appearance of the characters make the film feel stark and depressive, setting up a macabre overtone. Its gloomy, somber mood is maintained throughout to invoke a real sense of hopelessness about the entire ordeal, and when events begin to escalate, that mood quickly turns to dread and pure horror.
To basically get to the point – this film is violent… I mean really unapologetically violent.
It’s certainly not the most gruesome film I’ve seen, but there is a brutally real and subtly disturbing nature to it’s violence. People are mutilated, gutted, shot and stabbed, but I really appreciate that the film never lingers or indulgences on any of it. Despite what you may assume, the violence isn’t at all frequent or overt, usually serving as a surprising and sudden reaction that you’re never ready for. It’s never over the top or comes close to comedic, it’s maturely handled with modest yet specific detail that made me look away in several occasions. The tension is incredibly well maintained throughout the film as I found myself sinking further and further into my seat and physically reacting to the drama with the rest of the audience. Watching the characters even attempt to exit the green room was enough to make me mutter: “Here we go!”. In one particular scene (I won’t spoil), the audience called out in sickening repulse that truly made for one of the more eh, ’emotive experiences’ I’ve had with an audience.
But violence aside, the film also appears to be keenly aware of itself, and there is almost a hidden dark sense of gallows humour that permeates throughout, especially in regards to Anton Yelchin’s character pondering over his “desert island band” and even when he begins (cleverly) comparing his harrowing situation to a game of paintball. Instead, this comparison thematically represents the drastically different sides of both the Nazis and the band. Yelchin’s character describes his paintball experience about him and his inexperienced friends being teamed up against experienced veteran soldiers, where he hid and waited to be shot while the soldiers won without a single casualty. It practically summarises the doomed feeling of Green Room’s characters – they know they’re up against experienced killers who are being tactically advised by Patrick Stuart’s authoritarian presence that casts a shadow over the band as they try to make their escape. The band as a result, make very frequent dumb mistakes that while ultimately stupid, are convincingly honest to the panic and terror they are currently in. Decision making is very different between the groups and it’s interesting to see how confrontations play out usually because of how unpredictable and unconventional much of the film’s action is.
Jeremy Saulnier has proven himself to be filmmaker truly worth watching given that Blue Ruin also happens to be a distinctly intelligent and thought-provoking thriller that surprised me with it’s originality in both execution and thematics. The same is comparatively true about Green Room – it shows it’s influences with Straw Dogs and Deliverance, but it certainly feels more inventive and original than many other films, in fact, it sustains a consistency I last saw in Cold in July back in 2014. Green Room behaves like one of those moments when you instinctively feel like you’re in danger or something bad is about to happen – adrenaline begins rushing through your body; your fight or flight response kicks in; but your decision making and perception of what to do becomes completely distorted, resulting in dire consequences.
Green Room is a true uncaring nightmare – it questions your decisions, your actions and your sensibilities during a time when all hope for safety is completely lost.
UPDATE: With the home release of Green Room, I decided to go back and have a more in-depth look at how the film subverts the expectations of the traditional thriller.