Skip to main content

Green Room (2015): Review

The moment I saw Macon Blair, playing a gangster "custodian" in Jeremy Saulnier's Green Room (2015), I thought he looked familiar. As it turns out, he also starred in Saulnier's Blue Ruin (2013), a movie I very much loved; it was muted, bleak and driven, a gritty tale of revenge exposing the kind of rugged, criminal violence normally found in places off the beaten track. It's jarring because it worms unexpectedly into normal, innocuous settings, similar to the Coen brothers' Fargo (1996), Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan (1998), David Cronenberg's A History of Violence (2005) or Peter Chan's Dragon (2011).

Note: It's also worth noting that Blair, himself, directed the pitch-black comedy I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017). It's both equally shocking and laugh-out loud funny, combining Hamlet-level violence with off-beat humor as heroes, hopelessly out of their depth, square off against equally incompetent (albeit totally ruthless) villains. Everyone's complete and utter inability is all part of the fun, in that movie.

Also, in this review, be forewarned: I tend to go into spoilers.

I loved Green Room for the same reasons I loved Blue Ruin and Blair's debut. It contains the same crisp visuals, in the sense that it captures both the lush scenery and dirt under everyone's nails. Also like them, it has violence in spades, each instance accented with some truly outstanding gore effects. At the same time, while the comedy isn't excluded, here, Green Room feels like more of a horror film than either of its predecessors, one being a revenge drama, the other a black comedy bent on exploring the outer limits of existential crisis. The ingredients are essentially the same; the balance is anything but.

In Green Room, we're presented with a punk band: four unlucky teenagers who've traveled miles from home (on siphoned gas, no less) to play at a gig that ultimately fizzles out, netting each a cool $6.87 after all's said and done. They're pissed, but fail to correlate their paltry turnout with their self-defeating "analogue" approach. Young, impetuous and determined as they are, the quartet remains dead-set on going back with full pockets (or at least enough to pay for gas).

In the process, they decide to jostle the owner of the last venue. Chagrined, the desperate man points them towards his cousin—someone that, according to him, has the wherewithal to supply them a truly prosperous gig. Encouraged, the gang lets him off with a warning before going on their merry way. That being said, their lucrative detour is provided with an initial caveat: "Play your old stuff." Their crowd is mostly Nazis, who evidently like their music loud.

No sweat, the band figures (the need for cash makes for strange bed fellows). They make it in time and play through their set, antagonizing their audience by unwisely screaming "Nazi punks fuck off!" No one dies, however (even neo-Nazis have a sense of humor, or so it would seem):

Invigorated, the emboldened band prepares to leave—or rather, they're being ushered out by an irritable bar employee called Justin. He appears troubled, wanting no one to go into the back room. Alas, Pat (an awkward, callow Anton Yelchin—rest-in-peace, good sir) does just that, darting inside to grab a bandmate's derelict phone. When he does, he looks down and sees a girl with a pocket knife planted squarely in her temple.


The rest of the film essentially takes place in one spot: the venue. Much of that is inside the room the body is found in. There's also a secret room under the floorboards and the bar outside. Apart from those, and some outdoor shots, at the start and end, everything is contained at the crime scene. I, for one, liked that; there's little to distract from what's happening onscreen.

Before we know it, the bodycount skyrockets. It doesn't discriminate, either, targeting the innocent and guilty (and those in between) alike. I found the kills to be especially gruesome and well-executed, the gore effects top-notch and the delivery believable. Improvised weapons—including mic feedback (a first, for me), bar stools and fire-extinguishers—gave it a home invasion feel. Think You're Next (2013) except rather than a yuppie mansion, the place being invaded is a bar owned by someone else; it's From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) minus the vampires (and jarring tone shift).

In any case, after the body is found, the "pesky kids" are locked inside the room—with Justin and a moll named Amber. Erstwhile, the crime boss (a bearded, scowling Patrick Stewart) has arrived on the scene. His name is Darcy and he is not pleased. This is because Pat, having seen the victim, has already has called the cops "about a stabbing." To deal with it, Darcy hires two "true believers" to shank each other and thus take the fall. It works and the cops are gone; the kids are not. They must be dealt with.

Even when in a rush Darcy remains a somewhat cautious murderer. Guns are forensic nightmares, having the potential to both contaminate their bar (obviously a front) and incriminate the owner(s). Firearms being out of the question, the bodies must also be placed somewhere else afterward. Clearly the gangsters have a long night ahead of them.

Darcy's an old fox, though. He gets inventive, recruiting "red laces": men who tie their boots with red laces, which mark them as assassins. One of these killers is a dog-owner, and though it is never explicitly stated, he seems the sort who'd breeds pit bulls to kill each other. This man expresses concern over losing his prize hounds; Darcy promises to compensate him, in that regard—provided they make their deadline. All of this is delivered in quick, sparse dialogue that spells little out, yet adds up. It sounds like how people would actually talk: without exposition (the sort that normally would be aimed squarely at those beyond the Fourth Wall).

Through the door of the room, Darcy orders Justin to leave; Justin can't, despite having the gun, which holds five cartridges—not enough to get all four kids, if they choose to rush him. Sure enough, they do and he's disarmed. Following this, Darcy encourages Pat, now holding the gun, to hand it over. He doesn't shout, but reasons with the lad. After some haggling they reach a compromise: give the gun, keep the bullets (world's worst plan).

Satisfied, Pat pushes aside the barricade and unbolts the door. As he starts to reach outside, Amber spots red laces through a vent in the wall, fastened low to the ground. Up to that point, she clearly knows more than she's been letting on. Seeing the tell-tale laces, she drops the act.

"They're killing us!" she cries.

Begin a cascade of violent dominoes. Pat's hand is pulled through the door and nearly cut off. Prior to that, one of the kids, knowing martial arts, has already had Justin lie on the ground, putting the thug in an armbar (to discourage any funny business during the trade). As Pat is being maimed, Justin resists; his arm is broken. He can't take a hint and is choked out—not once, but twice. The second time is meant to do him in. To be sure, the wild-eyed Amber guts him, lifting his sweatshirt and dragging an extended box cutter across his hairy stomach.

When I saw this, I, a seasoned gore-hound, actually gasped out loud. Justin's curtain call is just that shocking and gross. Pat's injury is just as bad—perhaps a little too bad: they practically have to duct tape his hand back on, yet somehow he avoids bleeding out. Why? Because it's a movie and if you want realistic violence, go watch The Men Behind the Sun (1988).

The rest of the movie unfolds like a deadly game of cat-and-mouse. Plenty of people die. Some good, some bad; I was kept on my toes throughout. Much of it felt plausible and grounded, without pulling any punches. Sometimes I squirmed, sometimes I grinned. Other times I thought, "Oh, that was clever!" (this doesn't always happen in horror movies, but does in Saulnier's). Meanwhile, woven into the plot is a fragmented, disjointed story of defection within the gangster household. It's not spelled-out, but the pieces are provided. One need only assemble them. To this, however, a second viewing of Green Room isn't simply recommended, but happily encouraged.


Popular posts from this blog

My Two Cents: An Interview with Ahdy Khairat

Hello, everyone! My name is Nicholas van der Waard. I have my MA in English Studies: the Gothic, and run a blog centered on Gothic horror, Nick's Movie Insights. However, if you follow Ahdy Khairat's channel on YouTube, you probably know me as "the two cents guy." With this post, I wanted to interview Ahdy himself and talk to him about his work. But first, a bit of history...

March 25th, 2018. It was a dark Manchester night. I was wearing a Cthul-aid t-shirt and standing in the kitchen of my student-provided flat. Holding my phone in my hand, I was making myself some dinner (rice, eggs and soy sauce—a student diet if ever there was) after a seminar earlier in the evening. I had on my headphones and was listening to some nightly music—some subscribed content on YouTube when Ahdy Khairat's latest remaster, "Call of Ktulu," popped up.

This caught my eye; I had several of Ahdy's remasters on my iPod, and enjoyed his work. However, I also knew he …

Is Garfield (1978-present) Gothic?

This article begs the question, "Is Garfield Gothic?" So many textual mutations of the cat have recently emerged. I shall outline some of them, here.

Is Garfield Gothic? At first glance, the answer would seem to be no. For decades, he's been nothing but a fat cat who likes lasagna. There are no allegories about him. What you see is more or less what you get.

I can assure you, this is only the beginning.
Upon further consideration, the answer is less simple. The Garfield of the present exists in many more forms than he originally did, years ago. He's no longer produced exclusively by Jim Davis; there are "other Garfields" out there, made by other people as (debatable) tribute. Some are funny because they are different than, but reminiscent of, the parent version; and some of are monstrous, and largely for the same reasons. Once there was one; now there is Legion.

One of the "other Garfields." Familiar, and very, very wrong.
All stem from the Jim Davi…

Dragon Ball Super: Broly (2019) - Is it Gothic?

Can Dragon Ball be Gothic? As a scholar of the Gothic, that's exactly what I wondered when I sat down to watch Dragon Ball Super: Broly (2019). In the movie, the death god Beerus literally takes a vacation. The Gothic mostly does, too, but let's take a closer look...

The movie more or less starts with King Vegeta looking upon his infant son, Prince Vegeta. Incubating inside the royal saiyan maternity ward, the boy is small; his power levels are not. The king looks smug. "I look forward to watching you grow into a vicious king!" he boasts. King Vegeta and those under him work for King Cold, an even bigger tyrant. At the movie's start, Cold retires, putting his son in charge. Ever the enfant terrible, Freiza belittles the saiyans for their poor technology. After killing a handful for seemingly no reason, he introduces the now-infamous scanners for the survivors to use. With more explanation than the original show ever bothered to provide, DBS: Broly throws the sava…