It may have been his recent thriller Blue Ruin that put writer/director Jeremy Saulnier on the proverbial map, but Green Room firmly establishes the filmmaker as a cinematic force to be reckoned with, as he confidently creates a tension-filled masterpiece brimming with hellish intentions and pulsating with a palpable sense of raw ferocity from start to finish. Simply put, Green Room is punk as f—k and features a blistering performance from Patrick Stewart.

Green Room follows a struggling indie punk band called The Ain’t Rights, who are on their way to a gig only to find out it’s been cancelled on them at the last minute. The group reluctantly agrees to play a makeup gig at what they’ve been told is a bit of an “extremists bar,” but turns out to be the hangout for a tight group of neo-Nazis living in the wilderness on the outskirts of Portland. They make the best of a crap situation and get through their set, but things take an unexpected turn when band member Pat (Anton Yelchin) returns to the green room to retrieve a forgotten item and stumbles right into a murder. Things escalate rather quickly (a popular phrase in our house, similar to a Ron Burgundy-ism from Anchorman) and The Ain’t Rights find themselves locked inside the titular space, held captive by Nazi bar owner Darcy (Stewart) and his go-to guy Gabe (Macon Blair, who also worked with Saulnier on Blue Ruin and Murder Party), who believe that the unsuspecting musicians must not make it out of their club alive.

What Darcy and his murderous thugs don’t realize is that The Ain’t Rights may be kids, but they’re not dumb and certainly aren’t willing to die without a fight to the death. From there, a literal war breaks loose between the two factions, resulting in relentless, blood-soaked chaos as Saulnier ratchets up the pressure on both groups the further along he takes us into his nightmarish cinematic journey.

In Green Room, Saulnier masterfully creates a brutal and relentless thriller that deftly subverts expectations while continually raising the stakes for everyone involved—two earmarks of great storytelling. A huge reason why Green Room works as well as it does is because Saulnier keeps his script steeped in a relatable sense of violent realism; no one in this film is fully prepared to deal with the unfortunate events that unfold, which means that mistakes are made on both sides. Each group uses their own style of smarts and cunning to outmaneuver the other, but we see time and time again how those decisions often come with repercussions, and in the case of Green Room, those repercussions are often bloody and deadly in nature.

With The Ain’t Rights, a quiet desperation runs through the performances of those held captive; Yelchin, someone who first stood out to me with his heartbreaking performance in Alpha Dog, has been a consistently solid performer over the last few years, but it’s his work in Green Room that demonstrates just how far he’s willing to challenge himself as an actor when given powerful material to draw from. Yelchin’s bandmates also all deliver strong, realistic performances, particularly Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) as The Ain’t Rights resourceful and badass business manager and bassist. Imogen Poots (who genre fans may remember from 28 Weeks Later or the Fright Night remake, in which she co-starred with Yelchin) is a revelation here, with a transformative performance in Green Room that’s equal parts sass and spunk, with a bit of unpredictability thrown in for good measure.

As mentioned, Stewart is a caustic and manipulative madman in Green Room, a cold-blooded leader who dangles hope like carrots on a string in front of the despondent bandmates in an effort to suss out their weaknesses and figure out the best strategy for their elimination. Darcy keeps a consistent pressure on the situation, throwing waves of skinhead soldiers, vicious dogs and more at The Ain’t Rights as part of his calculated plan to secure his livelihood by any means necessary. Stewart does a brilliant job playing this character with a chilling sense of precision and charisma.

As an allegory for the messy nature of war and the collateral damage it can cause, Green Room is daring, taut, and breakneck filmmaking at its very finest. In just a short amount of time, Saulnier has proven to be an incredible visual storyteller, and the way he makes an essentially one-location movie feel so much bigger in scope and ambition is truly commendable. A grueling and unflinching experience that’s as enthralling as it is unforgettably core-shaking, Green Room is unlike anything I’ve seen this year—a definite must-see for all genre fans.

Movie Score: 5/5

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.