Blue Ruin director Jeremy Saulnier goes further in establishing himself as a master of suspense with Green Room, a darker and considerably more nerve-shredding effort than his previous work. Set largely inside a single gig venue, it’s a thrilling, unnerving and occasionally stomach-turning exercise in claustrophobic tension that unquestionably registers as one of 2016’s best films.
Punk band The Ain’t Rights are having a tough time on the road. After taking a large detour to record an interview and play a show, they find that the gig has been cancelled at late notice. Apologetic promoter Tad (David W Thompson) promises to set them up with a better show to compensate, and as a result they find themselves playing a show at a bar in Portland. The twist? It’s a neo-Nazi bar, and as they settle in to get ready for the show, Green Room begins its quick shift from a subtle disquiet to overt chaos.
They play their set to an initially hostile audience – most likely not best pleased with the band’s decision to open their set with a blistering cover of The Dead Kennedys’ ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’ – but eventually seem to win them over. As they get ready to leave the venue, a chance trip back into the titular green room sees them stumble upon a gruesome murder scene. They’ve seen something they shouldn’t have, and Saulnier’s blunt, emotionless direction makes us feel complicit too. All the violence in the film is presented in the same way: without unnecessary stylistic flair, and devoid of any entertainment value in and of itself. There’s no cheap thrill in Green Room‘s many atrocities, just a spiralling feeling of unassailable dread.
The film goes on to follow the band’s attempts to escape from the venue, and Green Room goes stratospheric: a dizzying, frantic pace, uniformly great performances (most notably from Saulnier regular Macon Blair, Imogen Poots and an impressively game Patrick Stewart as the leader of the Nazi group) and a seemingly endless supply of unsettling, shocking moments mean that this is a film that never once stops for breath, and hurtles with genuinely staggering poise to its stunning final confrontation. Don’t miss it.
Green Room is released in UK cinemas on May 13th.