Jeremy Saulnier’s ‘Green Room’

Green Room, the new film from writer and director Jeremy Saulnier, is a great movie that anyone who doesn’t have to cover their eyes when there’s blood on the screen would enjoy. For those of us with a more sensitive disposition, it’s a horrifying exercise in trying not to run screaming from the theatre. That might sound like a criticism, but for a horror movie, I understand, that is actually the desired outcome, so Green Room is doing exactly what it set out to do.

    The film follows a punk-rock band, The Ain’t Rights, who are travelling through the Pacific Northwest on a shoestring tour. After an unsuccessful gig, they are on the verge of cancelling, when they are set up with another show outside Portland. Upon arriving, they find themselves at a neo-Nazi bar in the woods, where they proceed to enrage the very scary-looking audience with a cover of the Dead Kennedys song “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” Trying to leave when the gig is done, they see something they really shouldn’t have, and end up trapped in the green room, fighting for their lives against Patrick Stewart and his band of very, very violent skinheads and their dogs.

    For those who might need something to focus on that won’t be seared onto their brain and appearing in their nightmares for literally the rest of their lives, the cinematography in this film is actually quite beautiful. Oregon looks like an incredible place, all lush but spooky green forests, and this makes it a perfect place for filming a horror movie – it looks eerie and almost blue-tinted here, reminding this ex-tween girl of nothing more than the Twilight films. It’s incredibly atmospheric, and while visually gorgeous, also gives that impression that bad things could happen here – in this dark, misty forest, anything could be hiding just out of sight, ready to strike.

    The really impressive thing about Green Room is how fresh it feels, given that even a horror novice knows that the backwoods slasher genre is getting quite familiar at this point. But Saulnier keeps it surprising and every death is a fresh shock, every twist and turn in the fast-paced plot is unexpected. To spend even a little time at the start of a horror film feeling that all the characters might escape relatively unscathed is pretty unusual, and yet, I was holding out hope for all of them until the last possible second. This could be because the characters felt quite well-developed, despite the film being almost entirely plot, with relatively little exposition or time given to their backgrounds. But the band, portrayed extremely well by Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole and Callum Turner, are all charismatic and likeable, with enough spunk to risk telling an audience of skinheads to “fuck off,” so there’s no way not to hope like hell for their survival.

    Despite the paralysing terror I experienced while watching it, this movie actually demonstrated really well why horror movies are so popular – what they are for people, what they do. While more mediocre slasher films might just be an excuse to throw some blood around, to make people jump occasionally or gasp when something really horrible happens, Green Room capitalizes on tension and fast-paced, sudden periods of action to create a film which it is basically impossible to look away from. For an hour and a half, the viewer is completely involved, completely transported, tense and flooded with adrenaline. It’s horrifying, but exciting. There is no room for the mind to wander, to think about anything other than the fact that the viewer is never joining a punk band or going to Portland not ever. To take some time out from a very safe life, from the mundanity of everyday, and watch, from the still-safe vantage point of a cinema seat, something so far outside of it – well, it’s kind of fun. In a really gross way that I may never recover from. But that’s a really good thing.

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