July 18, 2016

Green Room

Jeremy Saulnier, 2016
Jeremy Saulnier certainly creates an environment that viewers would not have any interest spending time in in real life. A rural white supremacist rock club where blaring punk rock is played to crowds of aggressive skinheads. But that’s one of the best things about cinema; that it can transport you to places you would otherwise never visit. And he transports you in the company of a group of young punk kids that are struggling to make ends meat, living out of their van. Scraping by, taking any gig willing to pay a meager wage. They find themselves driving into the backwoods of Oregon to take an ambiguous gig given to them by a shady promoter. After their set one of the bandmates forgets a cell phone in the green room. Upon opening the door to the green room, Pat (Anton Yelchin) quickly discovers there is a woman’s dead body on the floor. Realizing that a murder has just taken place, he panics and attempts to call for help. They are soon trapped inside this claustrophobic green room, as the club owner and his aides attempt to cover up the whole situation.

Saulnier carefully plays with stylism and tension in this limited storytelling thriller. Basically the entire film takes place in this rock club, which is a glorified industrial corrugated metal shed in Bigfoot country. Saulnier is committed to his environment his builds; the Neo-Nazi imagery is strewn across every nook and cranny in the building. Stickers, graffiti, Sharpie doodles. The tension sets in from the second they get out of their rinky dink van and are quickly escorted inside the building. What follows is a violent display of a group of rather innocent punk kids trying to escape the worst gig of their short-lived music career. Outside the building, club owner Darcy (Patrick Stewart playing one of the most unexpected roles of his career) attempts to delicately clean up the situation rather than kicking the doors down and massacring them. But you realize that Darcy is totally capable of this. The fact that he doesn’t do this almost makes him more frightening.

The movie ends and you will be happy to leave this horrible universe you spend 95 minutes in. But Saulnier creates some unforgettable images, very much like he did in his last film Blue Ruin. He finds new ways to shed blood. People will probably remember this film as being one of Anton Yelchin’s last projects, as he tragically died in 2016 after the film was released. He was good in this film, although he was guilty of doing something Stewart also did a little too much of, whispering. I don’t know if it was the audio track or just the hardware I was viewing the film on. At times it was so difficult to hear the dialogue. Yelchin was often mumbling to the others. Patrick Stewart spent a lot of time whispering orders to his cohorts, and it was also very difficult to make out what he was saying when he was on the other side of the metal green room door. But the technical complaints aside, this is a film that should be seen. And surprisingly, even with such disturbing imagery, it’s a film that I will want to rewatch sometime soon.

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