Monday 13 May 2019

Movie Review: Green Room (2015)

A horror siege thriller, Green Room recycles familiar elements into a blotchy package.

The underground punk band Ain't Rights, including bassist Pat (Anton Yelchin) and guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat), is touring the Pacific Northwest in a beat-up van, not even making enough money for gas. Their fortunes look even dimmer when their latest gig is cancelled and replaced by a performance at a diner in front of totally disinterested patrons. In desperation they accept a show at a remote clubhouse frequented by neo-Nazi skinheads.

The crowd is rough but the performance is ok and the band is about to depart with a decent payout when they stumble onto a violent crime scene in the ramshackle green room. Ain't Rights along with the victim's friend Amber (Imogen Poots) now know too much and find themselves in hostile surroundings, locked up in the waiting room as the skinheads' leader Darcy (Patrick Stewart) plots a cover-up.

A low-budget independent production, Green Room provides a skinhead spin to the well-worn horror cliches of bumpkin dangers lurking in the woods and a small group beleaguered in a compound with help out of reach.

The premise of punk rock as an aspirational occupation for the scrappy protagonists introduces a whiff of originality to the first third of the film, but then fades away as a narrative thread. Director and writer Jeremy Saulnier struggles to concoct enough incidents to stretch the running time to 95 minutes, and Green Room suffers from the familiar ailment of utter incompetence by the bloodthirsty attackers at every crucial juncture. Darcy's troops appear to have the numbers, weapons, savagery and terrain familiarity to end the siege within a few minutes, but always find lame excuses not to do so.

Some character depth would have helped, but Green Room almost goes out of its way to keep all the key people on both sides of the siege as flat as possible. Despite bassist Pat and skinhead leader Darcy emerging as the leaders on both sides of the divide, the film ends with precious little revealed about either of them, the talents of Anton Yelchin and Patrick Stewart quite wasted. The rest of the cast members, particularly the interchangeable attackers, suffer even worse non-definition.

The few positives include some dry humour, limited but effective gore, and fun with microphone feedback and attack dogs. Stylistically the film is frequently dark and muddy, the dialogue often mumbled or obscured by loud music. The Green Room is caught in the land of grunge, after the music stopped.

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