After successfully creating a new take on the revenge thriller back in 2014 with Blue Ruin, writer-director Jeremy Saulnier has now turned his focus to the siege movie with equally fruitful results. Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole and Callum Turner star as members of The Ain’t Rights, a punk band who reluctantly agree to play a gig at a neo-Nazi clubhouse deep in the woods of Oregon. After witnessing a murder backstage, the band are forced to hole up in the titular green room, along with punk girl Amber (Imogen Poots). Their shock soon turns to dread as they realise that the neo-Nazis, led by the clubhouse’s owner Darcy (Patrick Stewart), have no intentions of letting them go.
Saulnier does a masterful job of creating tension throughout the film. Although the focus of the movie is on the band, cutaways to the neo-Nazis offer the audience hints of their plans, but crucially omit the exact details. Thus, when the band makes an attempt to break out, the viewer is just as in the dark as they are, contemplating what awaits them. These moments of almost unbearable tension are usually followed by a wince-inducing explosion of horror.
Stewart gives a chillingly scary performance, his calm matter-of-fact tone adding an extra level of menace to the orders he gives his legion of skinheads. For an actor who hasn’t played many villains in his career, he fits the role perfectly. Macon Blair, the protagonist of Blue Ruin, also impresses as the manager of the clubhouse who first alerts Darcy to the situation but begins to have second thoughts as the death count rises.
The gore level builds as the film progresses, with machetes, shotguns and attack dogs all being used as weapons, making this film definitely not one for the squeamish. Yet the film never feels exploitative and this is largely thanks to Saulnier’s script, which gives even the most minor characters a modicum of character development. The dialogue also feels naturalistic and unforced and a discussion early in the film about each band member’s ‘desert island band’ has a brilliant payoff near the end.