Continuing with this month’s theme of Halloween spookiness, I wanted to introduce you to a movie that is my favourite horror film of the year and possibly of the last five: a little feature called Green Room.
Don’t be surprised if it kind of sounds familiar. You probably didn’t see it, though. Given a limited release in April of this year and then a wider release in May, the film ended up getting buried in the midst of huge summer films (Civil War came out the week before the wide release) and showed on just over 700 screens. It was then overshadowed by the tragic death and last Star Trek film of star Anton Yelchin.
Green Room is about a punk band, the Ain’t Rights, who are in the midst of a tour that’s not going so well. The band is broke and the gigs are dropping off, including their latest that was put together by a guy named Tad. Feeling really crappy about the show, Tad arranges for the band to do a gig for his cousin Daniel at a club in the woods of Oregon.
Unfortunately for everyone, the club is owned, run by and filled with the local branch of white supremacists. After the show, the band is headed to their van when the guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat from Arrested Development) , forgets her phone in the green room of the club. Pat (Anton Yelchin) runs back to get it only to find a dead girl and a witness to the murder, Amber (Imogen Poots). The Ain’t Rights barricade themselves in the green room awaiting the police but soon club owner, Darcy (played by the amazing Patrick Stewart) returns and things go from bad to worse as he makes sure the police won’t be coming anytime soon and his army of skinheads begin to circle the wagons.
To tell you much more about the plot would be to give away some of the fun. I will say this is a movie that knocks it out of the park on so many levels, it’s a shame more people haven’t seen it.
First off, there is a real sense of authenticity with Green Room. If you’ve ever read any book by any punk band (Henry Rollins’ Get In The Van being a great example), you can feel how accurate they got the touring aspect and the ideals of the band. From the gigs not happening, to sleeping on people’s couches and floors, it is a fairly accurate portrait of the touring life of an indie or punk musician. Even the attitude of the band on why they have little social media presence or why they start their gig at an obviously neo-nazi club with the Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” just feels right.
The portrayal of the skinheads also seems pretty accurate. I’ve happened to have done some research on white supremacists for a project I’m working on and I can say for certain that it made me want to dig back into my research. From simple terms to the “red laces” (people who have shed blood in the name of the cause), Green Room gives a fairly accurate portrayal of a skinhead group.
As for the actors, everyone does well in this film but there are two really amazing standouts. I wrote a while ago about the film version of The Crow and that one of the sad things about that movie is how good a performance Brandon Lee gives and how it hints at what might have been had he lived. Unfortunately, I feel the exact same way about Green Room and Anton Yelchin. This was, without a doubt in my mind, the best role of Yelchin’s career. He just nailed it on all sides and it’s a shame that most people are going to remember him from the Star Trek movies and completely miss this film. Had he lived, I think this film would have lead Yelchin getting a lot of bigger and better work.
The second performance that deserves high praise is Patrick Stewart. Let’s be honest here, while we’ve all known he can act (we know of his theatre background), the truth of the matter is that 90% of viewers have only seen Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: The Next Generation and the X-Men Movies. Maybe younger readers know him from American Dad. While Stewart was able to pull out some really good performances on TNG, I’ve always been curious to see him play a villain again ever since he was the bad guy in the Mel Gibson movie, Conspiracy Theory. In Green Room, Stewart is calculating, cool-handed evil. You believe that this guy would calmly have someone slit his mother’s throat if it threatened his cause. He has obviously made choices for the character in terms of how Darcy talks and moves. It’s a fully realized character and it is terrifying what he might be capable of.
Jeremy Saulnier has previously proven himself a very capable filmmaker with Blue Ruin but with Green Room, he really establishes himself. If he doesn’t make another film or if studios aren’t banging on his door, it will be a damn shame.
Green Room is a brutal, brutal film, that doesn’t flinch at all. But there’s a good chance you will.
Green Room is currently available in various media formats.
Next week I review a new blu-ray release of one of the best sci-fi/horror films of all time, John Carpenter’s The Thing.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!