Saturday, June 11, 2016

Green Room

A punk band called the Ain't Rights comprised of Tiger, Pat, Sam, and Reece travel a long way for a radio interview and a show that doesn't earn them much money. As an apology, the radio host gives them the location for another show, but the area is very conservative. They arrive to a crowd of Neo-Nazis and their set actually goes over pretty well. The bar owners try to hustle them out, but Sam forgets her phone in the green room and witnesses the aftermath of a murder. The band isn't being allowed to leave and have their phones taken away at gunpoint. It becomes clear after the police have gone that they will never be allowed to leave and have to fight for their lives.

The Ain't Rights are a pretentious punk band on the verge of quitting. The director captures the world of punk well with this band as they siphon gas, couch surf, and drink their way to each gig. They refuse to have their music recorded digitally or videotaped for online use. They also refuse to have any online presence at all. I appreciate their old school sensibilities, but they also seem to want to actually make money and become relatively famous. With their ideals, it's just not going to happen. At heart, they're all kind of posers that want the best of both worlds. This is also shown in their choice of desert island band in their radio interview. Many of them chose hardcore punk bands, but later reveal their true, much softer choice of band when all of their facades are stripped away as the film goes on. The only band member exempt from all this is Tiger who was honest about who he was and what he liked the entire film. Reece is an angry guy who tried hard to project how tough he was. Pat seems confused about just about everything and Sam just seems along for the ride. Their facades and their eventual breakdown humanize these characters and allow us to root for them.

When the band arrives at the skinhead bar, it's uncomfortable but in a safe way. The band plays for the skinhead crowd, starting the set with Dead Kennedys' Nazi Punks Fuck Off, driving the crowd to shout and throw beer bottles, and then winning over the crowd with their original songs. Everything seems fine until the band witnesses the horrific scene that puts the siege situation in motion. The tension is so masterfully kept up throughout the film that I felt physically uncomfortable and tense myself. This band has to decide what they would do to survive in the face of these experienced Neo-Nazi killers. The band puts up an impressive fight in the face of great odds, but when things go south, the violence is immediate and brutal. There's no time to mourn or even react and it made me jump every time. The unexpectedly gory practical effects are impressive. I could hear the crowd squirming and vocalizing their disgust during the film.

The Neo-Nazis have many resources and men on their side. Men are willing to lay down their lives and kill for Darcy Banker, the head of their gang masterfully portrayed by Patrick Stewart. Although he's reserved in the role, he maintains authority and a sinister air in any situation. They employ pit bulls as effective weapons, but Saulnier takes pains to show that the dogs on their own are not violent. I found it refreshing to show that the dog just wants to please its master rather than being an inherently savage animal. Some defectors that try to help the band with varying degrees of success. Amber, the shattered friend of the girl who was murdered, has little hope of success, but tries her damnedest to beat them. She's the most realistic of the group because she's seen them in action before and knows what they are capable of. Others defecting shows how Darcy's empire and followers aren't perfect.

Green Room is one of my favorite horror films of the year. The tension is masterfully built up and held for the majority of the film. It's what horror is to me: building the atmosphere, creating realistic characters, and making the audience squirm. I had never heard of Jeremy Saulnier before, but I need to watch Blue Ruin and see whatever else he creates in the future. The acting is top notch all around and I can't find a flaw in any aspect of this film.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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