Movie Review: Green Room (horror movie about a band in skinhead territory)

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Directed by exciting, up-and-coming director Jeremy Saulnier, Green Room is a menacing, politically charged horror thriller. The film opens by introducing the audience to the punk band The Ain’t Rights, struggling to get back to the East Coast as their tour fizzles and the money runs out. When their scheduled show falls through, they end up taking accepting a slot on a lineup at a skinhead venue.

The Ain’t Rights champion classic anti-authoritarian, anti-racist, anti-establishment ideologies so jumping on what will very probably be a racist skinhead lineup already feels problematic but the band is desperate and need the gas money. And here’s where Saulnier sets up his would-be heroes for some serious challenges. See, when you compromise and make decisions out of desperation (instead of staying true to your ethics for example), shit can really, really hit the fan.

And I’m sorry to say, it does for our scrappy band. Even though they make their stance clear with a defiant cover of Nazi Punks Fuck Off, this isn’t enough to save them from being in the very wrong place at the very wrong time. I’m not going to give any more details and I recommend you don’t seek them out – just see it.

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Here’s what I loved about Green Room (and there are a lot of things):

  1. This film nails the touring band experience – expect for when things turn horribly violent. Saulnier grew up in the DC hardcore scene and knows his bands. It’s refreshing to see someone really get it right.
  2. The film’s ensemble cast is pitch perfect, particularly Imogen Poots, Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Eric Edelstein, Mark Webber, and Patrick (motherfucking) Stewart as the scariest, way-too-realistic villain I’ve seen in recent memory.
  3. The action and gore is, I hate to keep saying it, but it’s perfect. The timing, the detail, the surprises are all incredibly visceral and regularly surprising, and often come from unexpected character and plot twists.
  4. Saulnier cares about animals and pit bulls specifically.
  5. Green Room is an explicit examination of race and racism from an explicitly white perspective. Saulnier in unabashed in using this tight, scary thriller to show that racism and systemic racism cannot be ignored, and should not be underestimated.
  6. I already mentioned it once, but Patrick Stewart as a villain is the best/worst thing ever. He is utterly convincing as the leader of these racist skinheads; he is way too good at being a white supremacist; and I hated hating him because I love him so much. This movie is great already but his performance elevates it to an even more masterful level.

I can’t wait to see what Jeremy Saulnier does next. See Green Room and see everything else he does. Green Room opens in limited release April 15 and goes wide April 29, 2016.

Katy Evans is the Founder and Co-Managing Editor of Post Defiance, about all things Tacoma, WA, as well as the Assistant Executive Director of the Grand Cinema.