Review: Green Room (2015)

In Green Room, we follow a struggling punk band that includes the late Anton Yelchin and Ali Shawkat as members. Desperate for a gig, they accept one at a known White Power establishment in rural Oregon. Pickups line the dirt lot, and the buildings are unfriendly structures made of corrugated siding. Confederate flags decorate the walls. Despite the unsavory surroundings and one disastrous song, things go pretty well. The group does their set with a few minor hiccups, and they’re ready to leave and head back home. Shawkat forgets her phone, though, and when Yelchin goes back to get it he witnesses a murder.

Things go from bad to worse as the entire band is imprisoned along with a friend of the murdered woman (Imogen Poots). Enter Patrick Stewart, the frightening club owner, who plans on framing (and murdering) the band for their own deaths. First he has to wait until the patrons leave his bar so there are no witnesses. Then he has to convince the police that an earlier phone call reporting a stabbing was not so serious as it first seemed. Our heroes will be held at gun point for as long as possible to provide a plausible time of death. The situation becomes a trapped room scenario: hold out in a room while murderers are all around you.

Green Room sticks to its very simple plot and provides no surprises beyond the survival scenario. The movie seems to be hinting a twists: the band stumbles across a hidden drug lab, and one of the neo-Nazis was a boyfriend to the murdered woman. Yet every time, the band finds themselves back in the room. Each escape attempt reset sto the starting point like the “Restart Mission?” option in a video game.

I had expected the experience to perhaps be a miserable one, given the subject matter. Unlike the faceless protagonists of many slasher films, members of the pink band proved to be quite likable and rather capable. I dreaded the prospect of them being murdered one by one by despicable men.

What I didn’t expect, though, was how darkly comic this movie proved to be. It’s set up early, too; the movie opens with the tour van stuck in the middle of a cornfield because the driver fell asleep. In one scene, Yelchin’s wrist is slashed up and the situation looks ever grim. As they prop him up on a chair, he begins telling a story about paintball, which irritates the rest of his group by how inappropriate it is and how it’s not encouraging at all. At another point in the movie, Stewart prepares his men to kill off the band. But he also has a bar to run, and he confides to the manager that they need to hire a house band. I find a healthy sense of humor helps add a release of tension that keeps things from wallowing too far into despair.

IMDB lists Green Room under the categories of “horror”, “music”, and “thriller”, but I propose that they should add “action” to the categories as well. As in… this movie goes straight up First Blood at times. The pace switches when they decide to go on the offensive. They begin setting traps, working together, and score some kills that seem more designed to elicit cheers than horror. Am I implying that Imogen Poots gets an action movie one-liner? Watch Green Room to find out.

Rating: 5/5 stars.