Although it’s not a “horror” film, Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room couldn’t be more terrifying. This tale about a punk band trapped in a green room at a Neo-Nazi skinhead club plays out like a 1hr 34 min twisted episode of Tales from the Crypt.
This nightmare starts with the band members Pat (Anton Yelchin), Reece (Joe Cole), Sam (Ali Shawkat), and Tiger (Callum Turner) traveling somewhere outside of Portland, Oregon to play a gig. When the gig doesn’t pay enough, they’re told they can play at a Neo-Nazi club in the middle of nowhere and make more than enough money to get them and their gas guzzling van back to the east coast.
After they play the club and collect their money, Pat goes back into the green room to get a phone they left behind when he unknowingly walks in seconds after a young girl was been murdered by a bouncer. Panicking, Pat tries to call 9-1-1 until another club employee, Gabe (Macon Blair), convinces him to hang up. The band is forced into the green room and told to stay until police arrive.
Gabe gets on the phone with the club owner Darcy (Patrick Stewart) who has a plan for how to handle these kids who witnessed a murder – by “plan” he means murdering every single one of them so there are no witnesses. Pat and his friends are trapped in the green room with another bouncer and Amber (Imogen Poots), a friend of the murdered girl.
Scared out of their minds and only communicating through the green room door, the group realizes the police aren’t coming anytime soon. They’re forced to negotiate with Darcy and try to convince him to let them go. It’s not long before it becomes clear to everyone in the room that they’ll have to fight their way out if they want to survive this ordeal.
What makes Green Room such a nightmare is how intimate the story feels. It all takes place in a small club and most of the film occurs in a tiny green room. Saulnier uses the claustrophobic environment to tap into fears of the unknown, isolation, enclosed spaces, and knowing absolute bloodshed is waiting for you outside the room.
Patrick Stewart cold, calculated performance as Darcy is the big revelation in this film – rightfully so. This is Patrick Stewart as you’ve never seen him. He plays an old evil, angry racist. He’s more master manipulator/shot caller than he is Hannibal Lecter, yet Stewart manages to be absolutely terrifying. Watching him give out torturous commands is a little unsettling. This isn’t the cuddly Captain Picard who saved the universe every week on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Darcy is Professor X if he ran a school for murderous Neo-Nazis.
However, the award for Most Spine-Chilling Performance goes to Imogen Poots as Amber. When Amber is injected into the story, she’s a bystander and finds herself trapped in the room with the band. She doesn’t panic, cry, or beg for her life – she’s ready to fight and do whatever is necessary to survive. Amber‘s bloodthirsty vibe makes her the most dangerous people in the club. The box-cutter scene is a clear indicator Amber is ready to kill and she seems to enjoy doing it. It’s not what she does with the box cutter that’s disturbing; it’s the curious look Poots has on her face that makes that sequence so unnerving.
Anton Yelchin continues to be one of the best young actors in Hollywood. He delivers solid performances, one after the other. Whether its indie films like The Beaver and Like Crazy, or blockbusters like Star Trek, Yelchin commits to the role he’s playing.
Even with Green Room being classified as a thriller, the story is packed with enough nightmarish sequences to qualify as a horror film. There are back-to-back-to-back terrifying sequences that will make you quiver in your seat. Just when you think the movie is letting up, the violence only gets worse.
Saulnier’s Green Room is the perfect follow up to 2013’s Blue Ruin. It delivers in every way. Saulnier took the panic room narrative and turned into a chilling story about a punk band trying to survive the night. Not to mention he took one of the kindest faces in Hollywood and turned him into a maniac. It takes skill to frighten people and Saulnier has that down.