Green Room’s Suspense Will Make You Go Pale

Green Room
Reece (Joe Cole) attempts to hold a captor at bay while Pat (Anton Yelchin, right) assess the horror of the situation.

Green Room is the ultimate story of being in the (very) wrong place at the (very) wrong time. The punk rock band The Ain’t Rights is having financial woes, and in dire need of gigs. Out of desperation, they agree to play an off-the-beaten club in the woods—the meetup and favored watering hole of a local white supremacy hate group. When band inadvertently stumbles upon a murder scene, they become the prey in a cat and mouse game as they try to negotiate leaving the premises unharmed.

What works in Green Room is the suspense and the intelligent characters attempting to outsmart each other in a tense situation. Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier sets a tempo that slowly builds with unexpected shrieking crescendos hidden behind every corner. The violence ramps up suddenly and without warning—setting the rule early that relaxation and feelings of security will not be on the agenda throughout the entirety of the film watching experience. The resulting heart palpations will likely be audible among silent audiences—mouths agape, eyes wide—who will need reminders to breathe.

Furthermore, the thrills Green Room produces are earned through the reasonable actions of plausible actors. Once the band is being held hostage, or “being asked to stay,” as the calm club manager corrects, the chess game begins. Representing the musicians is Pat (Anton Yelchin), who wisely listens to the (sometimes conflicting) counsel of his bandmates as he tries to remain rationale while negotiating terms for their release using their bargaining chips. On the opposing side is Darcy (Patrick Stewart), the proprietor of the property whose calm rationality is chilling. Darcy is calculating, fearless, manipulative, and ruthless—a cocktail that results in a quietly ferocious performance from Stewart.

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While Green Room sustains a rhythm of horror through exceptional characters, the gore may be too much for viewers. The violence is relentless and gruesome. Those with cynophobia need not apply. The literal blood and guts, fortunately, serve a narrative purpose and never feel excessive (a hard act to pull off), but that doesn’t make watching any less torturous.

Another critique may be aimed at the motivations, and subsequent activity, of the hate group. While The Ain’t Rights’ plan is clearly stated and executed, Darcy’s strategy seems straightforward to him, but often only him. Because Green Room feels narratively solid in almost every other regard, audiences may become frustrated with trying to understand Darcy’s playbook, as his language to his soldiers is cryptic. Questions related to his behavior that begin with the phrase “well, why didn’t he just…?” might be abundant.

Green Room is a well-crafted nail-biting horrorfest. Saulnier creates a nightmare scenario due to the reality he imbues it with. While many may find the gory material off-putting, genre aficionados will appreciate the thrills.

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Photos courtesy of Broad Green Pictures