A Horror Renaissance is upon us, with a rise in unique and deceptively simple stories told with surprising depth and straightforward scares. This is the case with writer/director Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, which hacks its way onto Blu-ray this week.
Green Room pulses with punk sensibility and a dose of very real, very visceral scares. The plot is simple enough: punk band The Ain’t Rights wander off the beaten path on their way home to Arlington, VA and take a gig at a club in the middle of the Oregon woods that proves to be a meeting place for local Neo-Nazis. A misplaced cellphone places them in the heart of a violent murder, which the club owner Darcy (Patrick Stewart) and his skinhead henchmen need to cover up. Cornered in the club’s green room and armed with a single gun, The Ain’t Rights ain’t sure that they’re going to make it out alive.
The simplicity of Green Room’s plot covers a riveting complexity contained within the dialogue and the characterizations. Patrick Stewart’s low-key, well-spoken Darcy is one of the most menacing villains in a long time, his violence characterized by a disturbing and workmanlike cold-bloodedness as he goes about plotting how to stop the band from talking. His calmness is reflected in the band imprisoned in their green room – despite moments of horror and abject terror, they adapt to the situation, realizing that there’s a high likelihood they might not survive. Among them are Amber (Imogen Poots) and Pat (Anton Yelchin, giving one of his last and finest performances), who make up the oddly calm center of the film as the bodies pile up.
The Blu-ray release of Green Room presents the film in all its dark, green-tinged glory. Despite numerous scenes taking place in the near dark or with dim, ill-defined lighting, the Blu-ray’s 1040p presentation keeps the color palette clean and fairly well defined (when they need to be). The audio is a bit of a problem, however. There were several scenes where I was forced to turn on the subtitles or crank up the volume to a degree that made my television actually vibrate. The use of varying pitches of dialogue and ambient sound makes the audio mixing difficult, and this did not improve in switching Blu-ray players or screens. The audio problem is the only thing that mars the viewing experience, as Green Room’s plot and tone are heavily reliant on the exchanges of dialogue.
The special features on the Green Room Blu-ray are thin, but so interesting that you might not notice. A single, ten-minute featurette “Into the Pit: Making Green Room” gives us insight in the production process, with interviews with cast and crew that cover the span of characterization, plot, and the contribution of the terrible Oregon weather to the film’s atmosphere. The featurette does provide tidbits of information from varying perspectives – I only wished that it were longer. More in-depth is the audio commentary from writer/director Jeremy Saulnier, in which the director discusses the production circumstances, little Easter eggs in different scenes, autobiographical anecdotes and directorial choices that cover the span of the film. Saulnier is easy to listen to and obviously a man who understands his craft, adding depth to an already deep film. It’s worth re-watching Green Room with his commentary track, if just as a master class in how a film like this gets made.
Green Room is a sharp-edged, visceral entry into a genre that has grown more unique and complex over the years. It can be billed as a thriller or a horror film, but at base it’s simply a good film, with strong performances from a talented cast. The moments of quiet claustrophobia are punctuated by increasing, bloody violence, so sudden as to be shocking, and without the lead up that one would expect from a more mainstream film. Genre rules bend (and break), yet the film does not come off like a parody or a knowing nod to its genre. It’s rather a different type of horror, where even the violence has become unpredictable and shockingly straightforward without crossing a line into gore or self-indulgence.
Pulsing with punk sensibility and visceral violence, Green Room is a sharp-edged entry into the horror genre.