Unless there is an absolutely astonishing 2nd half of 2016, I’m relatively certain that I’ve seen three of my Top Ten Films of the year, in the last month alone. “The Neon Demon” is one, Whit Stillman’s “Love & Friendship” is another, and now I dare you to bear anything more intense than the flat-out great “Green Room” from writer/director Jeremy Saulnier. Starring the recently gone-too-soon Anton Yelchin, and (completing an odd “Star Trek” connection), a quietly malevolent Patrick Stewart, “Green Room”, like the filmmaker’s “Blue Ruin” before it–almost never makes a misstep. Yet it barrels towards its conclusion via unique and interesting ways. Predictable, it’s not.
A vagabond, and destitute punk band quartet–the Aint Rights–get screwed over by a local, small town Oregon radio host. The broadcaster attempts to make amends, by landing them a decent paying gig, as they are strapped for cash. What is offered is a one-time deal, that would have the group performing at an exclusive club in the woods, that is a known destination for neo-Nazi skinheads. They reluctantly agree to do it for the money. Soon, after completing their somewhat defiant set, the band happens upon something they shouldn’t have seen, in the establishment’s green room. And despite calm assurances from venue management, the band comes to the realization that they aren’t meant to leave the area alive.
Mr. Yelchin is terrific here, as Pat the bassist. What a terrible loss. And Alia Shawkat is memorable as Sam, the guitarist–I enjoyed her work in “Cedar Rapids” a few years back. However, Imogen Poots as Amber, probably comes off best of all. She’s an interesting actress, with an unusual look, and she’s the initial witness, to what becomes the impetus for the bulk of the movie’s plot. Mr. Saulnier is an amazing filmmaker, and “Green Room” is on equal footing with his “Blue Ruin”, which also graced my Top Ten list a couple of year’s back. The fine actor Macon Blair appears to be one of his muses, and he’s been utilized to chilling effect once again. This thriller is taut, violent, and perfectly paced. And it’s a much more gripping “attempted room escape”, than either Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight”, or Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room” before it. Mark my words.