First he took us to Blue Ruin, now we’re off to the Green Room. After leaving his smouldering mark following an impressive slow burn revenge thriller, Jeremy Saulnier had found a new bunch of people to terrify in his second colour coded film. Like a man gifted the keys to the kingdom, he launches on a nerve-jangling sugar rush of a thrill ride throwing everything and beyond into the mix. That it’s all a bit too much only partially limits the fun.
It all starts innocuously enough. Mildly chaotic hardcore punk band the Ain’t Rights, played by Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole and Callum Turner are parked in a corn field after their driver fell asleep. Siphoning gas to replenish the tank, they eventually rock up for an interview and gig in a small town only to discover the show is off. Too much blood and faecal matter last time the organiser booked out the room. To make amends, he sets something up with a relative at a neo-Nazi club in the middle of nowhere. Unsurprisingly, it all goes horribly wrong, and soon they are locked in a room with Imogen Poots and a dead body while Patrick Stewart doing a sub-par Ben Kingsley impression as club boss Darcy makes devious plans to disappear the problem.
Saulnier seems to thrive on fear, casing his third film in a fog of uncertainty. The mostly harmless band at first refuse to accept their lot. They quickly change tack, holing up in the dressing room before trying to make a break for it. The results are bloody. Very bloody. But this is not a gore fest. Most of the time is spent watching the band stew, or listening in on Darcy and co as they attempt to winkle them out from the hidey-hole. Multiple false starts result, only ramping up the tension until it reaches unbearable levels.
When he does decide to let blood, it’s gratuitously fun. A hand stuck out the door by Yelchin returns almost hacked off. A fat belly, just sat there all enticing, is ripe for the box cutter. Dogs’ savage necks, heads are blown apart and people face laceration and gunfire left, right and centre. It makes the aggressive punk set seem pleasantly benign by comparison.
The biggest problem is the breathless exuberance of it all. Saulnier keeps a tight rein on proceedings for the first half before letting his beast run wild. Excess eventually becomes the name of the game, the film jumping between dark comedy and slasher horror with unerring regularity. Stakes get raised so high they start to disappear out of sight. When Poots and Yelchin are covering themselves in face paint and going all commando, it feels like a line has been crossed.
Green Room is a flash fire of a film, strolling along with a nice line in dread until the whole thing burns up. It’s a mad, wild ride that starts to devour itself before the end. Even if it becomes headache inducingly over-the-top though, it never stops being fun.
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Writer: Jeremy Saulnier
Stars: Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Anton Yelchin
Runtime: 94 mins