It takes a while for Green Room to make sense. Why has a van come to a halt in the middle of a maize? Why are the four passengers (played by Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole and Callum Turner) asleep? Why do they carry around the necessary piping to siphon petrol from other cars rather than buying ‘gas’ for themselves?
The Ain’t Rights are a punk band and they’re touring on the cheap. A gig falls through but they’re promised a slot in another out of town red-neck venue. Twenty minutes into the film and one band member’s chance sighting of the aftermath of a stabbing casts a dark shadow over their own longevity and their future as a four piece group. The white supremacist venue’s manager (Macon Blair) struggles to keep a lid the situation, holding the band hostage in the green room along with a beefy bouncer and the dead girl’s friend (Imogen Poots).
“I’m not keeping you: you’re just staying.”
For the next seventy minutes, we witness what happens when the blood, gore and violence faders are slowly turned up full in a tense and often brutal slasher movie. Along the way there’s some industrial bandaging with duct tape, a DIY zombie look when a fire extinguisher is discharged, and dogs that you wouldn’t want to meet on a dark night. Patrick Stewart gets to be evil, playing the venue owner and man in charge of handing out the coveted red laces to the neo-Nazi group.
Writer and director Jeremy Saulnier is wedded to the soundtrack, happy to cut away where others would have lingered. (Despite the heavy influence of the punk scene, unlike last week’s release Everybody Wants Some, there’s no rendition of Alternative Ulster to cheer everyone up.) The slow motion mosh pit scene easely on is artistic and a moment of relative calm before the storm around the corner.
I’m not a fan of horror films, so when one character asks “Shouldn’t we be panicking?”, I know that anyone with a nervous disposition (who’s left) in the screening has already mentally answered “We are”. The special effects, slashes and blood spurting are high quality. The characters are hard to love, with very shallow backstories and a sense of increasing expendability.
Green Room is screened in the Queen’s Film Theatre until 26 May. Update - also playing in Omniplex and Moviehouse cinemas.