GREEN ROOM Does Grisly Storytelling Like No Other

by Frank Calvillo

I really hope that there will be enough people going to see Green Room when it opens who actually know what the term “green room” means and don’t go into this incredibly grisly exercise thinking they are about to watch some environmentally-themed effort. For those who don’t know, a green room is a room located in the backstage areas of TV studios and concert venues where talent scheduled to appear can relax and unwind before taking the stage. I’ve been in a couple of green rooms in the past and have always marveled at the setup of well-presented food and beverages that are there for the enjoyment of the talent and their guests. However, writer/director Jeremy Saulnier’s third full-length feature has made me wary of ever entering into another green room for the rest of my life.

The setup for Green Room seems fairly straightforward. The members of an indie punk band (Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole and Callum Turner) find themselves scoring a gig at a backwoods club in the middle of nowhere, which is populated with neo-nazi skinheads. After a somewhat ambiguous reception from the crowd, the band are set to leave before one of the group’s members returns back to the green room to retrieve a phone. When the band discovers a girl with a knife sticking out of her head, two towering figures standing over her and another girl (Imogen Poots) cowering on the side, the band try to make a break for it before being quickly stopped by the club’s managers. After barricading themselves in the green room, and coming face to face with the sadistic owner of the club (Patrick Stewart) the group soon realize they must use any and all skills necessary if they hope to leave the green room alive.

I’m just going to come out and say it: this one of the most gut-wrenching trips I’ve had at the movies in a VERY long time. Even then, I don’t think that last time came anywhere close to the agony I felt watching Green Room. Seeing this movie on the big screen was such an incredibly excruciating and uncomfortable experience. From the get-go there was a dread I was unable to shake off, which evolved into a nightmare, and eventually a never ending series of tortures as I found myself in a sea of squeamishness with the changing of position in my chair serving as the only line of defense against that which was in front of me.

And yet, in spite of all of this, I never wanted Green Room to end. There was not a moment within this film, regardless of whatever horrendous action was taking place, where I dared to look away for even one second. THAT’S intense filmmaking. Saulnier has constructed such a finely-tuned battle of wills that unfolds in ways which are truly novel. The architecture of the film is laid out in such a skilled way, where you feel that there’s no possible room for the characters or the situation to go. And yet, every scene takes the proceedings to a place the audience member’s mind never even thought of before. The key to making Green Room feel as inventive as it does, is how it flat out refuses to play it safe for even one minute, whether it be through not turning the camera away during the most violent of moments or by not sparing characters just because the audience likes them.

I’ve been following the careers of Yelchin and Poots for quite some time as they are probably two of the most intriguing young actors around. Yelchin was astounding in last year’s virtually-unseen romantic comedy indie 5 to 7, while Poots was completely charming in Peter Bogdanovich’s delightful farce She’s Funny That Way. How great that someone came to the realization to pair them together in a film which calls for the two to venture into new territory, fully succeeding in the process. I have a feeling most eyes will be on Stewart however, in what is a rare villain role for the legend. The fact that the actor has chosen to play his character as if he is treating the situation at hand like simply another day at the office, is ultimately what makes him so incredibly terrifying.

Over the years, the idea of the punk way of life has been romanticized to no end, with many of its practitioners embracing such an ideology as a way of getting attention or escaping into a decidedly screw-it-all sensibility. The core ideals of the punk life, specifically the genuine frustration with society and the maddening feeling of isolation, seem to have fallen by the wayside in the era of Good Charlotte. For me, however, the most rewarding aspect of Green Room was how it showcased the REAL dark side of the punk life and, in a way, serves as Darwinian test between those who are meant to exist in that world, and those who aren’t.

Also, just because I have to; my desert island bands: Sixx A.M. and INXS.

Previous post Pick of the Week: SHATTERED GLASS
Next post THE REVENANT — A Beautiful But Hollow Endeavor [Blu-review]