Green Room is the best thriller of the year that you probably haven’t seen.
It’s the work of American filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier, his third feature after Murder Party and Blue Ruin- which was the best film of 2014 you probably didn’t see either.
There’s a pattern here and it’s time to take notice.
The story follows a punk band with members including Anton Yelchin and Alia Shawkat who end up playing a gig at an isolated venue. When things go bad, the crew gets trapped and has to tussle with a gang led by Patrick Stewart.
The streamlined setup is a sign of things to come from this finely crafted feature which uses its resources to great effect without feeling like it has an ounce of flab.
It’s also consistently surprising, something which is hard to pull off in an isolated location. There’s a sense that rather than feeling constrained by the space, Saulnier uses it to best effect to play- both with the characters and the audience.
Green Room is a film which has immense power to thrill and shock, and that’s down to the precise pacing created by Saulnier and editor Julia Bloch. The road tipping and gigging of the opening gives way to the inciting incident which melts organically into a series of more and more dire circumstances, rattling up in tempo to the flat out finale.
At times, it’s an exercise in almost excruciating tension, putting the characters into extreme peril time and time again, and also making it clear early on that no one is safe.
The cast is superb, especially the late Anton Yelchin, whose presence gives the film an added air of poignancy. English actress Imogen Poots is relishing an unusually meaty role and Stewart is used sparingly, making his screen time all the more chilling.
Saulnier and his talented crew also deserve huge praise in creating a masterful piece of cinema and wrangling an impressive cast and strong production values on an extremely low budget.
Green Room was a terrific and terrifying experience in a crowded cinema, feeling the movements of the audience with each twist and turn and volley of viscera and it remains riveting on the smaller screen. You get to bask in the details more, to appreciate the craftsmanship, especially on a second or third viewing.
Extras: The supplements are pretty limited on this blu-ray disk but the quality remains high. There’s a 10 minute making called Into the Pit which packs in plenty of talking heads (including Saulnier, Yelchin and Stewart) chatting about the production challenges and some themes of the film. Be warned, it's spoiler heavy. You’ll also find the trailer for completeness sake.
The real find on the disk though is the commentary with writer/director Jeremy Saulnier- which is hidden in the ‘setup’ part of the menu.
Here, the filmmaker very humbly leads us through his latest feature. He admits to being a little tired coming straight out of a long press tour to record the track in April 2016- noting it’s just after the death of Prince. Unbelievably this also puts it just a few short weeks before Yelchin’s tragic passing in June, and the references to the actor are very bittersweet.
It’s an interesting listen, with some tips for low budget filmmakers, references to his love of tactile effects and his enjoyment in wasting production value. He also thinks the film is a confirmation that ‘idiots can make movies too’ which is endearingly self-effacing. Oh and he reveals his Desert Island Disc, if you’re interested.
Green Room is undeniably one of the best films of the year, and one that remains engaging on multiple viewings. The visuals are impressive, the cast is great and those quiet moments wind the tension to excruciating levels. Highly recommended.
On DVD, blu-ray and VOD on the 19th of September 2016.