Proving that Blue Ruin was no accident, Jeremy Saulnier has followed his freshman film with a sophomore effort that is, if anything, every nastier. And goes to prove that there is currently no one who does jagged thrillers better than he does.
The room in question is the dictionary definition of a shithole; a squalid space at the back of a shabby bar, with walls chipped of paint and covered in graffiti, that’s bathed in seedy light, and has an ambiance rife with sleaze and sweat. When unsigned punk band The Ain’t Rights (Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner, and Joe Cole) first enters it, they’re already nervous, having agreed to play an impromptu performance at this dingy dive bar that’s located in the middle of a hillbilly wilderness, and frequented by neo-Nazis. The performance goes well enough, but as they’re about to leave, the band mates accidently stumble upon a murder scene, and soon find themselves barricaded in the venue’s green room, while outside a gang of thuggish mercenaries, led by the deceitful Darcy (Patrick Stewart, complete with a shaky accent), plot to eliminate them. If Blue Ruin was Saulnier’s tale of revenge, then Green Room is his story of a siege. A dark and dirty Deliverance-esque delight, it’s infused with immediacy and intensity. The violence is visceral and aggressive, a malicious mass of morbid body mutilation dispensed by rabid dogs and zealous hicks. So humid and hostile is the tone throughout, at times it’s almost unbearable. Although Saulnier does address this as best he can by cutting through the terror with a vicious edge of comedy, much of it delivered by Imogen Poots’ spunky victim who’s caught up in the commotion.
Just as he bathed his first film in tranquil blues, here the director suffuses his story with various shades of green; a colour of life, harmony and safety, which is here juxtaposed by cinematographer Sean Porter with a brutal aesthetic, which together accentuates the heightened danger the band film themselves in.
Permeating the palpable atmosphere is a celebratory air towards the exploitive B-movies of the 70s and 80s. The grime isn’t just thinly slathered on the surface; it’s thick and fixed under the fingernails. Indeed, Saulnier’s focus on environment does get the better of him occasionally. His characters are, for the main part, simply cyphers used to amplify the mood – only Poots and Anton Yelchin are given a real opportunity to make a genuine connection with the audience. The ferocity of Saulnier’s style still hits you hard though; Green Room isn’t simply a film that takes a stab at you, it continues to hack until there’s nothing left.