Green Room (2015)

Longer version of piece published by Sight & Sound as part of coverage of the Cult programme at the London Film Festival 2015

The last time Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots shared the big screen was in Craig Gillespie’s over-the-top 2011 remake of cult vamp-camp hit Fright Night. Yet if Green Room, which reunites them, boasts a title that sounds like the kind of location where these performers might hang out between takes, that is because writer/director Jeremy Saulnier (Murder Party, Blue Ruin) likes to occupy the unnoticed spaces between genre, and to fill them with ‘ordinary’ people caught off guard.

Down on their luck and desperate for cash, four-piece punk outfit Ain’t Rights find themselves as the support act at a roadhouse in the Oregon backwoods, with the “boots and braces” crowd for an audience – and as a cocky prank, open their set with a cover of the Dead Kennedys’ Nazi Punks Fuck Off. Yet after bassist Pat (Yelchin) becomes accidental eyewitness to a murder scene, the band is forced to wait in the green room with a young woman’s corpse, her worried friend (Poots) and an aggressive doorman, while the venue’s owner Darcy Banker (Patrick Stewart, against type but brilliantly on form) and his conflicted lieutenant Gabe (Saulnier regular Macon Blair) work doggedly to clean up the mess and cover their tracks.

A siege film with believable characters and witty dialogue to ensure that the ‘clusterfuck’ violence, when it comes, hits very hard, Green Room shows regular folk just trying to get by in impossible circumstances. It also slyly exposes the low motives underlying some of the more extreme ideologies in America’s culture wars. Here, though necks are gored, there are no vampires – just all-too-human monsters and their mostly loyal lap dogs.

Anton Bitel