Punk Rock has always been a hard thing to capture on film even though there has been plenty of attempts. Repo Man is obviously the Citizen Kane of Punk films. However sometimes the more the film is made by an outsider like Out of the Blue or Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains the closer they get to the heart of it. However Green Room is very much made somebody who has lived and breathed punk rock. The director Jeremy Saulnier was involved with punk rock scenes in his native Virginia and later the highly influential Washington D.C. scene at its tail end.
Green Room is a contained thriller with horror elements. It’s about a the punk rock band “The Ain’t Rights” who is nearing the end of an unsuccessful tour of the Pacific Northwest but a guy they stay with sorts out one last gig with some decent cash. The catch however is it’s at a neo-Nazi skinhead bar in the backwoods of Oregon. The bassist Pat (Anton Yelchin) comes up with the great idea of covering the Dead Kennedys’ song “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”.
The set goes surprisingly well but when they are packing up they stumbled upon a murder of a skinhead girl in the “Green Room”. The band try to call the cops but the bouncers throw them into the green room with the murderer, the dead girl and her friend. Soon however the Neo-Nazis are trying to kill them all and are led by Darcy Banker played menacingly by Patrick Stewart.
The setting of Oregon is inspired partly due to its strong punk rock history. It does also have a strong history of racism, it was basically formed as Racist Utopia so much so Black people weren’t allowed to be there till 1926. However it’s now known for being this Liberal Utopia which is only really the capital Portland. The woods are full of the kind of right-wingers depicted on-screen, it has strong history of white supremacists and right-wing (as well as left-wing) survivalists.
Jeremy Saulnier made a splash with his revenge thriller Blue Ruin which I enjoyed but wasn’t as won over by it as some critics. Green Room however is as visceral the very best of hardcore. It runs at a breakneck speed of around the 90 minute mark. The violence on-screen is extreme but every instance it’s completely with reason and is never gratuitous which is rare in modern “gory” horror films.
Anton Yelchin since the film’s release passed away due to a freak accident. It’s a real shame because he was shaping up to be one of the most interesting actors of his generation. His performance in Green Room is possibly his career best (he has a handful left to come out) and his own experience in a punk rock band helped that. Patrick Stewart gives one of his finest in his distinguished career and it’s also one of his riskiest especially at this point in this career. Imogen Poots is shaping up to be one of the best young British actresses and her performance as the skinhead girl Amber just radiates the screen with attitude.
Green Room is undoubtably the best fictional punk rock film since the ’80s. It’s works both as a throwback to ’70s thrillers such as Assault on Precient 13 and Deliverance but it should also should work for horror fanatics as well. The cinematography by Sean Porter is strong and he is a DP to look out for. Saulnier improved on the promise on his last feature and he will have a hard time trying to top it but I’m sure he can. The disc includes commentary by Saulnier, a ten minute featurettes and a theatrical trailer.