Green Room (2015)

  • Time: 94 min
  • Genre: Crime | Horror | Thriller
  • Director: Jeremy Saulnier
  • Cast: Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Anton Yelchin


A band straying into a secluded part of the Pacific Northwest stumbles onto a horrific act of violence. Because they are the only witnesses, they become the targets of a terrifying gang of skinheads who want to make sure all the evidence is eliminated.


  • “We won’t all live, but maybe we won’t all die,” one character says in the pulse-pounding horror film, Green Room, which boasts an unlikely but cracking set-up.

    The Ain’t Rights are a hardcore punk band comprised of singer Tiger (Callum Turner), guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat), bassist Pat (Anton Yelchin), and drummer Reece (Joe Cole). Siphoning gas from cars on the road, they’re not exactly selling out arenas so when their next gig falls through and only nets them six dollars apiece, they agree to play for a venue that will pay them 350 dollars. The venue is mostly “boots and braces,” says the local radio host who secured the gig for them. When they arrive at the location, they realise that they’ll be playing for a bar room of neo-Nazi skinheads. No need to worry, assures the venue manager Gabe (Macon Blair), who escorts them to the dressing room that provides the film with its title.

    Despite initial tension between the punks and the skinheads – not exactly helped by the Ain’t Rights kicking off their show with a cover of the Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” – the gig goes relatively well and the band are on their way back to their van when Pat goes back to the dressing room to retrieve Sam’s cell phone. He happens upon a disturbing scene: a woman on the floor, a knife in her head, killed by a member of one of the headlining acts. The Ain’t Rights make to leave, but Gabe confiscates their cell phones, tells them to stay put while he calls the cops, and leaves them in the green room with Amber (Imogen Poots), one of the club’s regulars and the dead woman’s friend, and Big Justin (Eric Edelstein), who is pointing a loaded gun at all of them.

    Cops are called but diverted by Darcy (Patrick Stewart), the club’s owner, who quickly gathers his troops to eradicate all traces of the murder. When his smooth talk doesn’t work on the band members, he very calmly tells them that it won’t end well. Writer-director Jeremy Saulnier wholly avoids training his camera on Stewart’s face as he negotiates with Pat and the other band members through the locked door, and it’s a wise move. Stewart’s voice is velvet with malice and its disembodiment emphasises how the Ain’t Rights and Amber are dealing with a force that may be beyond their control.

    Bodies are hacked, limbs are mutilated, throats are ripped yet for all the film’s graphic gore, there’s something surprisingly straightforward, unfussy and elemental about the way it’s presented which makes it all the more horrific. Though Saulnier doesn’t flesh out any of his characters, he is smart enough not to make them mere bodies to be fed through the narrative grinder. None of these characters’ actions could be described as dumb or misguided – they’re trapped, they’re fighting for survival, and sometimes the only way to do that is to make a run for it and hope you don’t get slashed or shot in the process.

    Green Room does lose steam as the body count increases and the narrative draws to its conclusion. There’s a certain monotony that sets in as the gang tries to make it out alive of this house of horrors with its sickly fluorescent greens and claustrophobic scuzziness. Nevertheless, its unrelenting pace, effective chills, and clever construct, and confident execution make this worthwhile viewing.

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  • At the time of writing this review, it’s been just over a month since the shocking and tragic news of gifted Russian-born actor Anton Yelchin’s death in a freak car accident. He left behind a trail of films in his wake, and a few more to come (including his role as Chekov in Justin Lin’s Star Trek Beyond), and it’s quite astounding just how prolific an actor he was during his short career. One of his final films, released not long before his death, is also one of his best. Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier’s follow-up to his critically-acclaimed Blue Ruin (2013) is a stunning exercise in survival horror.

    It begins with the Ain’t Rights, a punk band on their way to a gig that turns out to be a waste of time. After an uncomfortable social media interview, the band – consisting of Pat (Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reece (Peaky Blinders’ Joe Cole) and Tiger (Callum Turner) – are thrown a gig at a dingy bar in small-town Oregon. It’s the type of place adorned with Confederate flags and fascist graffiti on the walls, and, in true punk style, the band introduce themselves with a rendition of Dead Kennedy’s Nazi Punks Fuck Off. After the gig, the group find themselves locked in a room holding an unlicensed gun after accidentally witnessing a brutal murder. The situation worsens when club owner and neo-Nazi party leader Darcy (Patrick Stewart) turns up to deal with the situation.

    The events that follow are pure horror stripped down to the bone, sometimes literally. There’s nothing supernatural or indeed unbelievable about the situation, just a group of inept youngsters facing off against a small army of bruising, well-organised skinheads armed with weapons designed to inflict grisly damage and a pack of trained pit-bulls. The violence is ugly and wince-inducing, with the awkwardness of the ones often inflicting the pain only heightening the sense of desperation and utter dread of the situation. The tension is only broken by the ramblings of a somewhat confusing sub-plot, which unravels itself through half-heard mumblings, and this only distracts from the immediacy of the central plot thread.

    Saulnier asks quite a lot of his cast, as even the heroes of the story aren’t the most likeable bunch. They steal petrol, drink beer, cause trouble – pretty much what you would expect from a real-life young band trying to make a buck. But Yelchin has always been especially skilled at eliciting sympathy from any character he has played. As he and his companion Amber (Imogen Poots) – a close friend of the murdered girl – fight desperately for their lives, you are willing them all the way, rather than becoming frustrated at their ineptitude. Stewart also makes an impression as the quietly menacing skin-head leader, a role played completely against type, and it’s a shame he isn’t given more to do. The actor said he knew he wanted to take on the role when he was left terrified at home after finishing the script, and no doubt you’ll be making sure the doors are locked once the credits role too.

    Rating: 4/5

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  • “Things have gone south, no doubt. But you know if you don’t hand over that gun, it won’t end well.”

    The advantage of watching a movie without any knowledge or awareness of what it’s about initially, is that sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised. And that’s what “Green Room” did. It surprised me. Either way, I thought it was already interesting because it was about the members of an obscure punk band called “The Ain’t Rights”. They travel across the U.S in a shabby looking Minivan, going from gig to gig. It’s not exactly the comfortable life as that of a successful, richly paid rock-band. On the contrary. They look like undernourished, sleazy-looking bohemians. They don’t even have enough money to buy fuel, so they can move on. I admit it. I envied this group of carefree teenagers whose favorite pastime is to produce raw, anarchic music. Spontaneously memories of such a rebellious life in a distant past started to flash through my mind. Yep, I was a little biased from the start.

    When Pat (Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reece (Joe Cole) and Tiger (Callum Turner) decide to accept one more gig, so they can earn some money, they didn’t realize they would end up in a hornet’s nest. The location where they have to perform is situated somewhere in a secluded forest with some bleak-looking shacks standing around. It appears to be a sort of camp for the local skinheads. After their concert, which they began with a passionate tribute to the Dead Kennedys by playing one of their classics “Nazi Punks F*ck Off”, they are witnesses of a bloody crime. Somewhat later you see them barricading themselves in their dressing room, trying to negotiate with Darcy (Patrick Stewart) for a safe passage. Darcy seems to be the man who’s running the place. As a result, a brutal fight starts with the elite troops of the skinheads (fearless gang members with red laces) who use all kinds of resources.

    At first, I was expecting some sort of documentary-like film about the punk scene. However, when it slowly changed into a slasher and the first bloody confrontations was a fact, my enthusiasm was awakened. What’s presented here, is pure aggression in its most explicit form. You’ll get fury and brutality of an unprecedented nature. The ruthlessness with which the neo-Nazis try to eliminate the band, is fairly confrontational. Nothing is shown in veiled form. Violence hits you unmercifully like a sledgehammer. But not only the violence is explicit. Also the intensity and the rising tension in those claustrophobic rooms is at times unbearable. The overall setting in which the story takes place contributes to this for most part. Those dark corridors and dingy rooms. And the fact that both parties have no idea how to resolve the situation, just makes it even more interesting.

    Biggest surprise for me was seeing Patrick Stewart as the charismatic leader of this subversive gang. He’s better known as the more reserved and dutiful Captain Jean-Luc Picard. It felt a little weird to see him parading around as a kind of xenophobe who gives cold-blooded murderous orders to these far-right sympathizers. Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots tried to fight back in a fearsome manner. Both of them appeared already together in “Fright Night”. But I’ll always remember Yelchin as “Odd Thomas”. He managed to survive in “Green Room”. In real life however, he ran out of luck. His Jeep ,which was parked on a hill, struck him, because he left it in neutral. Well, life sucks!

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  • “It’s funny. You were so scary at night.”

    There are some movies that make you question where you stand on Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory – Green Room is one of them, and I don’t think I’d survive.

    With white power slogans subtly displayed throughout the film’s central location, a neo-Nazi skinhead bar in the desolate Oregon backwoods (led by Sir Patrick Stewart!?), the timing of the film’s release is a eerily relevant in the era of a Trump America. Green Room creates a raw, gut-wrenching survival experience that had me white-knuckled throughout the entire movie.

    Even Sir Patrick Stewart (Darcy) 30 pages deep into reading the script, stopped reading to immediately set his home security alarms and open a bottle of scotch before finishing the script.

    “Remember, it’s not a party,” Darcy tells his followers on stage in the microphone. “It’s a movement.” You’re damn right.

    Green Room follows a young hardcore punk band from DC, the Ain’t Rights, who are nearing the end of their financially unsuccessful West Coast tour. The band accepts a last-minute gig in the backwoods of Oregon that they should have passed on. “Don’t talk politics,” they’re warned prior to performing in front of a neo-Nazi audience. After their gig concludes, the band is forced to fight for survival after witnessing a murder in the venue’s green room.

    There’s something about this movie’s intense realism that struck me. If I accidentally found myself in a life or death situation, what would I do? Would I make it out alive? Probably not, but these aren’t normal questions people should have to wonder, but movies like Green Room prove that this gruesome plot isn’t far-fetched. The band members aren’t idiots. They’re just real people put in an extreme situation…at the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Brooklyn-native and rookie director Jeremy Saulnier (this is his third film after 2007’s Murder Party and 2013’s Blue Ruin.) was integrated in the punk rock scene growing up and wanted to explore aspects of that culture on film.

    “You had all kinds of different subgenres of punk rockers and hardcore kids and amongst them was the Nazi skinheads. That was definitely bizarre that people would be out in bright sunlight during a matinee show, proudly wearing swastikas. That element of danger stuck with me. I knew they were part of the world of punk and hardcore, yet very different as far as ideology and structure. They were like soldiers. But it just so happened that the Nazi skinhead element is what piqued my interest, as they’re our natural adversaries in this sort of world.” Jeremy Saulnier via GQ

    The leader of the film’s militant group is none other than Professor X, Sir Patrick Stewart himself completely playing against type.

    “He wanted this man to seem reasonable: doing his best to help these kids get out of this situation, while at the same time causing their destruction. There was a wonderful paradox in this character, and, you know, sometimes all that actors are looking for are some nice contrasts and contradictions to get hold of.” Sir Patrick Stewart via Vice

    Saulnier wanted to create a situation that felt plausible and unfolded realistically instead of coming off as Hollywood fluff. “I want to know what it’s like to actually fight off adversaries if you’re in this siege situation. Whenever you see, like, some real shit that goes down, the takeaway is never that everyone acted brilliantly. It’s a clusterfuck, you know? And I like to explore that rather than the invincibility that I see so often in movies.” Saulnier via GQ

    To warn all viewers, Saulnier’s execution of intense realism came off a little too perfectly. For those who get queasy with violence, Saulnier describes it as “full-frontal gore” that doesn’t hold back. But let’s be clear that there’s nothing sadistic about the film’s violence; everything that happens serves a narrative purpose.

    Green Room is a glimpse into a reality most of us are unfamiliar with, and it unapologetically taps into your most primal fears that are rarely explored. I’ve lauded this as one of the greatest movies of 2016, and I encourage everyone to see. But you’ve been warned.

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