|'Saulnier administers a potent shot in the viewer's arm during the opening act that rapidly takes over our mental faculties in uncompromising fashion until the final moments'.|
Perhaps surprisingly considering the significant difference in context and execution between the two films, Jeremy Saulnier's Green Room feels like a close relative to Robert Eggers' The Witch. The reason for the two films' unlikely kinship is in their approach to horror cinema, in that both do something so different within the genre that some have questioned whether they should be considered horror films at all (hint: they should).
Reviewing The Witch at the Leeds International Film Festival last year, I described Eggers' film as "a period drama with lingering, occasionally prominent supernatural elements", an approach which elevated it to the position of being one of the finest horror films of recent years. Green Room achieves the same position, but in a markedly different fashion. Where Eggers slowly drugs us with an intoxicating black magic brew that gradually increases its grip on our senses, Saulnier administers a potent shot in the viewer's arm during the opening act that rapidly takes over our mental faculties in uncompromising fashion until the final moments. Just when you think you've preempted what the director will do next, he delights in twisting matters the other way.
What happens before this sudden injection is just as important, however. Saulnier establishes the four members of struggling young punk band The Ain't Rights efficiently and effectively whilst maintaining the film's apocryphal feel. Indeed, Green Room's story feels more like a vividly recounted urban legend than anything else, and giving any of these characters fully fleshed out backstories would feel at odds with the director's adrenaline-fuelled film-making style. The closest we come to background information is an anecdote from Pat (Anton Yelchin) about a paintball match, a story recounted in two halves which has its place amongst what happens, but ultimately could have been excised to keep the heady pace going without doing the film any damage.
Whilst the actors who make up the punk quartet - Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole and Callum Turner - are strong throughout with believable chemistry, more has been made of Patrick Stewart's performance in Green Room as Darcy, the leader of the particularly unpleasant gang of neo-Nazis the band come up against. Many have praised Stewart in particular for playing "against type", when what they actually means is "not Professor X". He's brought some of Shakespeare's most notorious villains to life on both stage and screen, so his ability to effortlessly transform into a far-right skinhead shouldn't be all that surprising. Stewart deserves credit, but not at the expense of Saulnier's young cast, which also includes an impressive turn from Imogen Poots as The Ain't Rights' unlikely and unpredictable ally Amber.