“It’s funny. You were so scary at night.”
Harvard political scientist Samuel P. Huntington said, “Power remains strong when it remains in the dark; exposed to the sunlight it begins to evaporate.” Green Room is a film about power – the power of violence, white power, the power of music and drugs and the power that a sense of purpose brings. It’s also a testament to the power of cinema, as once Green Room gets going, it never lets up. I had expected Green Room to be one of the best horror films of the year, and it delivers – it’s one of the most tense and visceral films I’ve seen in ages.
The premise of Green Room is a simple one. It essentially boils down to DC hardcore punk meets Assault on Precinct 13. Punk band The Ain’t Rights find themselves taking an unexpected detour to play a show at a neo-nazi bar. After accidentally witnessing the aftermath of a murder, they soon find themselves under siege in the bar’s green room.
As I noted earlier, Green Room is a film concerned with power, and the main power in Green Room is held by the menacing Darcy, played by the legendary Patrick Stewart. Stewart is wonderful here, playing Darcy as a complicated, rounded character rather than a scene-chewing super villain; that realness – that you could meet someone like Darcy at the local grocery store and find him charming and pleasant – is what makes the film truly chilling. Like Stewart’s performance, there’s a sense that writer-director Jeremy Saulnier is striving for a sense of realism in all his wonderful hard-boiled procedural dialog and moments of cinematic flair. Violence in Green Room is not heroic or beautiful to watch. It’s explosive, ugly, shocking, and desperate.
Purely on a plot level, this is a simple film – a band under siege by Neo-Nazis; the craft of this film comes in the small moments. The power it has over us, like Darcy’s, begins to evaporate once you’ve left the dark of the theater, but while you’re in the thick of it with The Ain’t Rights, pushed and tested to the limit, it is truly exhilarating cinema, crafted with care and intelligence. I liked Blue Ruin, but I loved Green Room. Jeremy Saulnier and his regulars are true talents. Bring on your Red film (if you’ll be sticking with the colors, surely Red is next?) Jeremy, and I’ll be buying a ticket.