The excellent and understated Blue Ruin launched the career of Jeremy Saulnier in a big way, thanks to its creeping sense of melancholia and dread. In the case of Green Room, he successfully continues on with that trend, showcasing his skills of building the atmosphere and directing his characters with enough subtlety and nuance, but intercutting that with sharp intensity and brutality. It takes a special kind of horror film to get such a visceral reaction out of even the most acquainted of the horror milieu, but this film leaves you stressed out of your mind by its shear intensity, violent grimness and veracity.
The film’s sense of anxiety, violence and melancholia is unending, unnerving and absolutely relentless, yet that nature never once overstays its welcome or becomes glamourized or glorified in any way. This could’ve easily descended into Hostel or Saw territory where it is just all gore but no substance whatsoever, but this is a very smart and able machine that has clear echoes of films like Assault on Precinct 13 or Deliverance.
When the movie delivers on its brutality, it feels impactful and shocking, with one particular moment with a box-cutter that’ll leave you gasping. Everything’s steeped in violence, yet it’s the writing what drives it, filled with rich and deep, complex characters that are all part of a plot that’s intimate and small-scale. It’s not all black and white or good vs. evil, as those lines become incredibly blurred and each character has their own shortcomings or moral shades of grey. It all cleverly relates back towards Nietzschean philosophy, particularly the famous quote of, “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you”.
All this makes for an incredibly dynamic cast, with the particular standout being Patrick Stewart, whose performance is laced with melancholy and unhinged grouchiness, yet is full of smooth charisma and shear dynamism. Imogen Poots is also phenomenal as the kick-ass heroine who, as the film goes on, almost begins to spiral into insanity herself, especially when she proclaims how “hungry” she is. She is also teamed with her Fright Night co-star Anton Yelchin, who especially deserves praise given his recent tragic passing. He gave an incredible performance, and it was clear here that he was really coming into his own as an actor, which makes it all the more heartbreaking that someone with so much promise has left us so soon.
Green Room is a debilitating, white-knuckled thrillfest, yet done with the same amount of care, attention and understatement that Blue Ruin had before it. The way Jeremy Saulnier is able to easily craft an arbitrary tale of fate and circumstance into an oppressively melancholic and character-driven slasher-fest is truly remarkable, and further shows Saulnier as a true bona-fide genre filmmaker to watch out for.
GREEN ROOM / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: JEREMY SAULNIER / STARRING: ANTON YELCHIN, IMOGEN POOTS, PATRICK STEWART / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW