In the independent film scene, few films have gotten more buzz this year than the horror-thriller Green Room. It's one that I was really looking forward to seeing, and it lived up to the hype, which doesn't always happen. It has many unique elements that give it authenticity and real menace.
What does this movie have that makes it stand out? Let's take a look.
1. It has a punk band!
The movie is about a punk band called the "Ain't Rights". The band members own nothing except what they keep in their van. They also live in their van unless they can crash with strangers that are part of the loose network of punk lovers that dot the country. They steal gasoline to travel to cities and play sketchy venues that barely pay them enough for food. They depend on word of mouth to send them to their next gig. This is the first real element of authenticity - their lifestyle. In addition, their conversations are peppered with references to famous punk bands and concert lingo.
2. It has neo-nazi skinheads!
When a local college radio host screws up one of the band's gigs, he tells them about another concert at a remote compound that will pay them well. He also warns the band that this is a "boots and braces" event. This is a term that is not explained in the movie, but which means that the concert is for neo-nazi skinheads. The band isn't exactly excited about that, but they know how to handle themselves, and they need the money.
In another bit of authenticity, there is an element of the movie that refers to "red laces". Again, they don't explain what that means. In some real neo-nazi groups, if you hurt or kill someone in support of the skinhead cause, you are awarded red laces for your boots.
3. It has a suspenseful story!
Needless to say, things don't go very well for the band. While at the concert, they stumble onto a murder. They are then held hostage while the skinheads try to decide how to handle the situation. It ends up being a battle for survival - for both sides.
4. It has authentic punk attitude!
In keeping with the themes of the film, the movie itself is filmed with a very punk attitude. It's raw, fast, and aggressive.
The movie authentically captures the attitude and feel of the underground punk rock scene (all TRUE punk rock is underground, of course).The opening song that the band does at the neonazi skinhead rally is maybe the best example of punk attitude. If you're not used to punk music, you may not understand what the hell they're saying, but the song is a cover of "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" by the Dead Kennedys.
5. It has Patrick Stewart!
The Shakespearean-trained actor, perhaps most famous for playing Captain Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men movies, plays Darcy, the meticulous leader of the skinhead gang. Stewart is so classy and refined, that even when he says things like "pigfuck", it sounds good.
6. It has bloody violence!
The story itself will be well-liked by people who like thrillers. However, a lot of people die, and there is a lot of bloody violence. Knives, revolvers, dogs, box-cutters, machetes, shotguns, and broken bones are all used to great effect. The aggressive violence fits the style and attitude of the film, but it may limit the audience, who prefer their suspense to be more cerebral.
7. It has actual character development!
It's common for movies like this to be just a series of set pieces where violent things happen to one-dimensional characters, and you just wait and see who's alive at the end. But this movie is better than that. The characters are more real than you usually see in this genre, and there are actual character arcs.
As an example, Pat (played by Anton Yelchin, who is famous to mainstream audiences as Chekov in the new Star Trek movies), while loving what he does, isn't fully committed to the punk lifestyle. He's often made fun of by the other band members for being too thoughtful and soft. Yet, when everything goes bad, it's Pat that becomes the reluctant spokesman for the group. And we see him struggle with his basic nature when he is plunged into a situation where his basic nature could get him killed.
8. It has Jeremy Saulnier!
OK, this may not mean anything to people who don't watch independent films, but it's important. He wrote and directed this film. Saulnier also wrote and directed the best thriller of 2013 that nobody saw, Blue Ruin. Saulnier is one of the best independent film-makers alive today, and this is only his third movie. He's got a rare talent for being both an excellent writer and director.
9. It doesn't compromise or apologize for what it is!
Saulnier could have reduced the violence in the movie to make it more palatable to mainstream audiences. But he stayed true to his vision, and made a tight, smart, genuinely suspenseful thriller with authentic characters and situations. Like punk rock, this movie will not appeal to all audiences. This probably won't be his mainstream breakout film. But I would rather have it this way than for Saulnier to compromise himself for a few extra bucks.
The NSFW trailer:
What did you think? An awesome indie thriller, or was it too violent and hard to really understand? Let us know!