Director: Jeremy Saulnier
It’s hard to tell if the horror genre is finally setting into its renaissance period. Sure, there are still dozens of terrible horror films pumped out every year on what seems like an assembly line of recycled ideas and terrible clichés, but the resurgence of critically acclaimed horror films is hard to ignore. Skillfully crafted films like Cabin in The Woods, The Babadook, and It Follows are evidence of this, and even the latest Child’s Play sequel gave Chucky fans reason to rejoice. The point is that this new era of horror doesn’t show signs of stopping and from what I can tell Jeremy Saulnier, director of Blue Ruin, has carved out a nice little place in the new era of horror with his latest film Green Room.
The film’s setup is terrifying in its own right; a desperate and down on their luck punk band (featuring the likes of Alia Shawkat and the late Anton Yelchin, in one of his final roles) agree to take a gig at a white supremacist bar in the middle of the woods. While the neo-Nazi clubgoers may not enjoy their first cover “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”, the rest of the set goes off without a hitch and all seems well. It’s not until one of the band members witnesses the aftermath of a girl’s murder that all hell breaks loose. As the band barricade themselves in the titular green room with the dead girl’s friend Amber (Imogen Poots), the gang goes off to retrieve their leader Darcy (played to perfection by Patrick Stewart), who quickly devises a plan to kill the band members and make it seem like an accident.
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Throughout Green Room, Saulnier proves himself to be a master of atmosphere. He uses tight spaces, angular shots, and a cool color pallet to give the setting a distinct cold emptiness while maintaining a claustrophobic atmosphere.
Where Saulnier truly rises above the terrible horror films is in the attention he pays to his characters. Unlike popular horror movie slaughter, the band members actually have lives and personalities, even if they don’t get much screen time. You are interested in the characters and Saulnier’s skilled use of practical effects not only makes the movie all the more gruesome but gives the various deaths emotional weight.
As with many films, Green Room is elevated by the work of its cast. While they all deliver top notch performances, Poots and Stewart stand out among the rest. Poots is amazing as the silent but deadly Amber, bringing restraint to her character but never at the expense of emotion, as well as delivering on one of the most striking images in the film as she emerges from under couch cushions with a box cutter and violent intent. Stewart, seemingly relishing his out of character villainous role, brings a quiet and calculated presence. It’s a shame that the film’s isolated and claustrophobic feeling limited what could be done with Stewart’s character, resulting in little screen time (we can never have too much Patrick Stewart).
In the end, Jeremy Saulnier proves that the atmosphere and slow building intensity of Blue Ruin were no accident as he takes the direct to DVD horror concept of Punks vs Nazis and turns it into an exercise in violent intensity, crafting one of the best and bloodiest films of the year.