“I know what my Desert Island Disc is now" …"Tell somebody who gives a sh*t!” This sums up the general feeling of Amber (Imogen Poots) and Pat (Anton Yelchin) at the end of Green Room, as they sit on the road-side in an idyllic Oregon pine forest. That is, after enduring 16 hours under attack from violent, skinhead, death metal-loving neo-Nazis following a badly-received gig.
Green Room is Jeremy Saulnier’s return to the B-movie arena, following his equally gripping and brutal Blue Ruin (2013). I use ‘B-movie’ in the best sense of the word, given its connotations of poor acting and indie atmospherica. Saulnier’s new film is full of the beautiful detail and visual artistry that one would expect of an independent film; however Green Room transcends the tropes and conventions of standard slasher movies thanks to some superlative acting and a deep, dark vein of humour.
Contrary to expectations, the film was not simply a vehicle for Patrick Stewart (playing brooding landlord – and overlord –Darcy). Instead, it also showcased the brilliant talents of Yelchin and Poots, whose naturalistic style adds a sense of humanity which echoes throughout the film, contributing to its success – and when the gore sets in, its grittiness.
The film takes place almost entirely at the venue for the musicians’ impromptu gig, an isolated roadhouse and neo-Nazi hothouse, run at hands-length by Patrick Stewart’s Darcy, a man so placidly evil that he reminds me both of every Shakespearean villain ever, and a certain US Presidential candidate. When the band discover a crime scene occurring in their green room after the show, they are forcefully confined to the small backstage area for what turns out to be just shy of 16 hours.
Yes, there is too much gore to shake a machete at (a gentle reminder that the film is not for the squeamish), however it is Stewart’s utterly impassive villain who adds real steel. His ice-cool delivery utilises his Shakespearean training to great effect, and when he warns the band, “You’re trapped; that’s not a threat, it’s a fact”, fear sets in, with disbelief completely suspended. Even the violence is real, human and artful, with the director’s preference for realism and restraint exhibiting an exemplary understanding of economies of scale.
Ultimately, Saulnier’s artistry, humour and humanity shine through in a less-than-average slasher B-movie which is well worth the trip to see. Just don’t eat beforehand.