As soon as I sat down to write this, my nose started dripping blood. It’s not witchcraft, I’ve been sick, but it’s really appropriate to be bleeding while writing about this movie.
Green Room follows punk band the Ain’t Rights — Pat (Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reese (Joe Cole) and Tiger (Callum Turner). Penniless, on the wrong side of the country after a long tour and on the verge of breaking up, the group catches a lucky break when it is invited to headline at an off-the-beaten track Oregon club. It turns out to be a white supremacist hangout, but they pay well and can take a joke, so it goes smoothly. The gig turns sour when Pat witnesses a murder in the green room. The neo-Nazis trap all the band members there along with club regular Amber (Imogen Poots), intent on killing them as witnesses. What follows is a night-long standoff between the group and the menacing club owner/Nazi leader, Darcy Banker (Patrick Stewart).
Green Room is a claustrophobic, brutal gorenography that shows you exactly what you came to see, and lots of it. The movie kind of recalls Deadpool from earlier this year in that it’s so on the nose and so exactly what viewers wished for that they may end up regretting that wish.
Technically, the movie is fantastic. The tension is driven by the plot — the band is meticulously denied their phones, so help isn’t coming. Banker wants to stage the band members’ deaths as a trespass gone wrong in a yard with a guard dog up the road, so while the neo-Nazis are heavily armed, they’re instructed to only use blade weapons and their trained attack dogs, so everybody who dies dies the hard way.
The visual payoff is gore, something used in horror movies so frequently and so poorly that it usually barely registers, but Green Room does a couple of things to make it shocking. Normally, movies focused on gore have an intense focus for minutes at a time on whatever weapon or trap is going to inflict the carnage, then only a few seconds of the goods before the patsy no one in the audience cares about dies spectacularly. Green Room shoots this very differently, with little-to-no focus on the dogs and weapons set to do the damage. Reaction is almost always spaced out from the action or with the action not shown at all, so while gore is what you came to see, it’s almost never what you’re expecting the movie to cut to the moment it does. Second, characters don’t always die. It’s strange to think about, but movies rarely let us see their characters limp. Seeing the effects of their injuries adds a lot of weight and discomfort that most gore movies lack. We are reminded constantly that these are human beings, even if we’re not made to care for them that much.
An interesting note is the film’s use of neo-Nazis. They’re not exactly condemned, and writer/director Jeremy Saulnier went to great lengths researching them to make sure he didn’t single out any particular group. Also not condemned are the dog fighting trainers, who clearly have deep mutual affection for their animals. These aren’t necessary inclusions, this same movie could play out with a racially ambiguous criminal organization and abusive dog trainers. It could be that Saulnier just likes dog fighting and is a little racist, but I don’t think that’s the case.
The lack of condemnation for these obviously horrible things lends a weird focus to the movie. American Nazism is the paste-eating stepchild of the white supremacist family. The gangsters are made members of this cult so Green Room doesn’t have to spend any more time condemning them. This movie isn’t about motivation, it’s about desperation. It’s about the things you learn about yourself when you’re about to die. This focus and the character arc it works in tandem with is another thing that sets Green Room a notch above the standard gore movie.
So, if guts are what you’re into, this movie has lots of them, and you won’t need to sit through a bad movie to get to them.
Leopold Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist and journalism student at the University of North Texas. I’ve had a change of heart in regard to reader input. It is now welcomed and encouraged. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions to reelentropy@.