“Green Room” marks Jeremy Saulnier’s second trip to the Quinzaine after 2013 FIPRESCI-winning sensation “Blue Ruin.” A neo-Nazis vs. punk rockers riff on the hillbilly survival films of the 1970s, “Green Room” pits a punk quartet called the Ain’t Rights against a gang of white power skinheads who’ve trapped them in a secluded venue after the rockers witness a horrific act of violence.
First a gifted cinematographer, Saulnier’s backwater-noir revenge film “Blue Ruin” was a theatrical and VOD success for RADiUS-TWC. All eyes will be on Saulnier as “Green Room,” a Broad Green Pictures film, awaits US distribution. The stellar cast includes Patrick Stewart, Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Mark Webber, Joe Cole, Eric Edelstein, Callum Turner, Kai Lennox and “Blue Ruin” star Macon Blair.
Here’s what critics are saying so far. Word on the Croisette has been very strong.
This movie also borrows from Peckinpah’s school of dark revenge, but this time recalls the likes of the more sordid “Straw Dogs.” However, this isn’t simply some pastiche drawn from different movies to yield a collage of references, but rather very much its own film, and a remarkable one at that… As a robust drama, “Green Room” holds its own while never shying away from being gruesome or provocative. Though the level of violence may well leave some queasy, this is a colorful and effective work that deserves an audience wider than just the usual genre film crowd.
Two years after making a crimson splash in Cannes with his catgut-taut suspenser “Blue Ruin,” U.S. writer-director Jeremy Saulnier continues his grisly journey across the rainbow with the ultraviolent backwoods horror pic “Green Room.” Following a young group of punk rockers as they scrape, shoot and slash their way out of an Oregon neo-Nazi group’s clutches, this wilfully unpleasant midnight special further demonstrates its helmer’s machete-sharp sense of craft, and puts an interestingly matched ensemble — including an outstanding Imogen Poots — gleefully through the wringer. Characterization and emotional investment, however, are in disappointingly short supply, while crucial tension is permitted to dissipate in an anti-climactic final third. Nevertheless, given the right marketing, this dark, dank “Room” could make plenty of green for a genre-savvy distributor.
Characters are felled by machetes, have their throats ripped out by dogs and slashed by knives, while a few stragglers meet their maker from good old fashioned gun shots. As action, it’s niftily executed, the suspense neatly built, and the shocks expectedly surprising. As a bonus, Saulnier and his crew establish the layout of the building clearly so it makes sense where characters are in relation to each other, and where the blind spots are. However, proficient as it is, there’s not much here that genre fans won’t have seen a hundred times, apart from the fact that instead of having dumb teenagers getting sliced and diced by hillbillies or supernatural serial killers, here it’s slightly cooler punk rockers up against thugs in Doc Martens.
Initially, it seems as if Saulnier is, yet again, disguising a derivative thriller as something else with his assured direction and Instagram-filtered style. But this is one of the rare horror films that actually improves as it goes. The familiar setup is lifted by a lack of punch-pulling (unlike many other contemporary horror films, there really are no rules) and Saulnier’s ability to take a well-trodden road and fill it with grisly surprises is quite something. The Cannes audience were gasping and recoiling at all the right moments.
Like the protagonist of “Ruin,” our heroes don’t suddenly turn into super humans the moment they’re in a heightened situation. In other words, they fuck up, and they make mistakes, and there’s something entirely winning and unpredictable in treating these characters as real people. It’s just one part of a surprising level of texture to a film so lean (barely over 90 minutes) that gives almost every character, including the villains, a degree of dimensionality.