Jeremy Saulnier wanted to make an exploitation movie with ready-made villains. And who better to fill this role (other than Russians, usually, or Arab terrorists) than Nazis?
Green Room (2015) is his third full-length feature, his first being the charmingly gory cloistered art scene send-up, Murder Party. Say this about the man: Brooklyn art studios and Oregon punk bars are as far removed as you can get from your standard horror set-up.
Hardcore band The Ain’t Rights is spinning its wheels on the road, a common enough fact of life for many touring acts. And they cut corners any way they can, sleeping in their van and siphoning gas.
When their tour sputters to Spinal Tap proportions, which include a truly terrible gig inside a half-capacity burrito joint, a fan-zine journalist/booker tries to remedy the misstep with a face-saving kick at the can: a very lucrative gig, albeit at a skinhead bar in the remote Pacific Northwest.
It’s deep in the dark woods, a feature of many horrors as these represent the border between order and chaos. But the bar’s pretty chaotic as well.
The Ain’t Rights’ singer baits the rough-neck crowd with a tear-through of Dead Kennedy’s Nazi Punks F*ck Off. Certainly not a number to help their case, and sure enough, there are enough members of the crowd on hand with unsympathetic sensibilities when it comes to that song.
Post-gig, bassist Pat (the late Anton Yelchin) forgets his cell in the backstage green room, where, in true genre film fashion, he spots….a body! It’s a young girl, who’s been stabbed in the side of the head.
What to do with a body is the plot that’s launched 1,000 films, but the way the material is handled here — to Saulnier’s credit — Green Room doesn’t even NEED a body!
The background/place setting is so authentic, the characters so compelling, that a spin-off film could’ve easily been made about the exploits of earlier Ain’t Rights’ tours, maybe an updated version of Bruce MacDonald’s Hard Core Logo.
Regardless, as witnesses to the crime, the band members find themselves in a terrible predicament, made worse upon the arrival of bar owner Darcy (a terrific, sonorous turn by none other than Patrick Stewart, squaring the Star Trek circle with Yelchin, who was Chekov in the movie reboot).
Terrific tense action and cramped atmosphere that doubles as a loving tribute to punk rock. Ironically, it’s also quiet, especially when it needs to be, a rarity in horror.
Punk’s not dead! But things aren’t looking right for Ain’t Right.
***3/4 (out of 5)
[CHECK OUT THE REALLY AWFUL MOVIES PODCAST DISCUSSION OF GREEN ROOM]