Like a punk song ‘Green Room’ doesn’t fuck around. It doesn’t waste a single moment. It crams as much humanity as it can into as little time as possible. It clearly and distinctly defines each character very quickly and gets them to expression the whole range of emotions throughout in 95 minutes. It’s seriously amazing how much everybody goes through and without ever feeling forced. Every progression feels totally natural and every development is entirely earned. This film goes insanely extreme without using one cheap trick.
The film skips over so many of the problems prevalent in modern horror it’s almost hard to call this a horror. Many of its sensibilities have much more in line with a thriller. But it is terrifying. It’s gory and disgusting in a hugely real and visceral way. I think every single viewer recoiled in horror at the *hand* scene. I don’t think anyone expected Amber’s point of no return attack on Gabe. And I don’t think anyone expected her and *hand* dude’s nothing-to-lose-free-for-all at the end. And yet it was totally inevitable and needed. It’s amazing how many new ways Jeremy Saulnier finds to surprise you while maintaining such a strong and consistent level of functionality throughout the script. He ramps up the tension slowly and carefully until you’re on the edge of your seat screaming, not knowing how you got there. Again, kind of punk.
The characters are all active. They’re not idiots getting trapped by a failure to do anything but just.… people. Complex people making complex decisions: not right and not wrong. They don’t have much time to think but what they do feels like something we might do in that situation. They don’t feel like movie characters but reasonable people doing the best in insane circumstances.
Saulnier knows how to use each actor perfectly. This is most clearly demonstrated in his sparse use of Patrick Stewart – it must have been a temptation to give him some philosophical monologue or exposition-fest conversation for reasons of ‘you have Patrick Stewart in your micro-budget’ film but he resists any temptation and always puts the story first. Alia Shawkat is good at being sensible but passionate, and Imogen Poots brings this quiet insanity. The characters and their interactions just… work. Simple as that. Punk.
There’s a beauty in Green Room’s simplicity. To call a film simple usually implies something negative but simple things can be great and powerful. Often the most resonant ideas are the simplest. It proves that following the rules doesn’t make a film predictable. It reaffirms the most basic dramatic rules of story functionality and character consistency. Just because we’ve seen millions of films use fundamental formulas before doesn’t mean something new can come up and not be absolutely riveting. Punk proved that.
So enjoy heaven Green Room. You’re first in so sorry if it’ll be a lonely for a little while.