They like it. Let’s begin with Oliver Lyttelton, who gives it an A- at the Playlist: “The last few years has seen the emergence of a throng of exciting new indie filmmakers like Ti West, Adam Wingard, David Robert Mitchell and Jim Mickle, who’ve melded inventive horror or action/thriller elements to a smart lo-fi arthouse aesthetics, resulting in movies like The House of the Devil, You’re Next, It Follows and Cold in July, among others. But one of the most promising of this new batch has been Jeremy Saulnier, who followed up his ultra-low budget debut Murder Party with Blue Ruin, a nifty, beautifully-made twist on the revenge movie that won over not just gorehounds, but also cinephiles. And his new film Green Room cements his promise by taking all the strengths of Blue Ruin and building on them, while straightening out some of the weaknesses too.”
“The premise,” explains Benjamin Lee for the Guardian (four out of five stars), “is a riff on the hillbilly survival nightmare, typified by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes, where a group of youths find themselves at the mercy of a pack of backwoods brutalists. In Saulnier’s take, an underground, and overly proud of it, rock band (including Anton Yelchin and Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat) books a gig at a neo-Nazi bar despite their initial reservations. The performance itself runs smoothly, with just a few bottles thrown and inflammatory names hurled. But as they prepare to leave, they stumble upon a dead body and are forced to barricade themselves in the green room while a line of thugs, led by Patrick Stewart, try to force their way in.”
“While it’s not exactly a horror movie (it’s probably best described as a siege film), horror fans will find much to enjoy,” Ryland Aldrich assures us at Twitch. “The special effects makeup is fantastic and Saulnier comes up with many opportunities to employ it with plentiful use of machetes, box cutters, and shotguns. And when the pitbulls show up, gore hounds know they’re really in store for a treat. This isn’t a typical CG blood thriller and the use of effects are a perfect example of where giving Saulnier a bigger budget translates directly to more awesomeness.”
Screen‘s Tim Grierson agrees that “this nasty B-movie thriller delivers where it counts: in blood, body count and dark laughs…. Green Room makes no apologies about its desire to cater to the midnight-movie crowd, and Saulnier certainly has the chops, flaunting a taut, cheeky assurance.”
For Variety‘s Guy Lodge, “this wilfully unpleasant midnight special further demonstrates its helmer’s machete-sharp sense of craft, and puts an interestingly matched ensemble—including an outstanding Imogen Poots—gleefully through the wringer. Characterization and emotional investment, however, are in disappointingly short supply, while crucial tension is permitted to dissipate in an anti-climactic final third.”
Saulnier tells the Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Roxborough: “I felt like a fter Blue Ruin I wanted to make something right away and to technically take it a step up but emotionally to take a step back. This film goes back to my roots—the crazy genre films of the 80s. It’s a movie for my 19-year-old self…. I see this as a batshit crazy punkrock horror thriller.”
Updates, 5/18: “Bringing to mind Álex De La Iglesia in its oddball characters and gonzo gore, this thriller further establishes Saulnier as one of the craftiest and most promising genre filmmakers working in the U.S., even if it amounts to little more than a machine for dispensing shocks,” writes Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at the AV Club. “The writer-director’s M.O. is to never linger, pivoting every violent demise into a new situation that needs to be escaped from as quickly as possible, which leads to another and then another; he has a knack for making every change in circumstances feel unexpected.”
“Among many other virtues,” writes Mike D’Angelo for the Dissolve, “Green Room demonstrates just how silly a waking nightmare can look if one of the weapons being deployed on a regular basis is a fire extinguisher, turning killers into an army of Poppin’ Fresh clones. Once the tension begins, early on, it never lets up, and Saulnier finds the ideal fuck-you punchline on which to end matters, with a smash cut to the closing credits and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Sinister Purpose.'”
At the Film Stage, Giovanni Marchini Camia finds that Saulnier has “jettisoned all moderation and while Green Room features a number of ingeniously crafted set pieces, it quickly winds up as an excessive, borderline pornographic revelry in extreme violence.”
And for the Hollywood Reporter‘s Leslie Felperin, Green Room is “a less disciplined, less original and less memorable work than Blue Ruin.”
But for Adam Woodward at Little White Lies, this is “an ingenious use of setting and space—the incidental heavy music and scuzzy decor heightening the sense of dread that permeates every inch of the venue. The casting is equally strong: Patrick Stewart (channelling his inner Heisenberg) plays against type to quietly menacing effect as the venue proprietor; there’s a brief but memorable showing from Blue Ruin‘s Macon Blair as a white power lacky facing a crisis of faith; and Imogen Poots ditches her wholesome girl-next-door look for a Ben Sherman shirt, green bomber jacket and Chelsea haircut.”
Updates, 5/20: “This is not a film most people will go see for the acting, although it must be said that the cast is uniformly game for the mayhem they are thrown into by Saulnier,” writes Marc van de Klashorst at the International Cinephile Society. “Even a veteran thesp like Stewart plays the cold-blooded neo-Nazi gang leader with glee, giving his character a menacing streak through internalizing the performance instead of chewing scenery (he wisely leaves that to the dogs).”
Kev Geoghegan talks with Saulnier for the BBC: “I grew up in the punk rock hardcore scene in Washington DC and had always been attracted to the aesthetic of that world.”
Updates, 5/22: “Do believe the hype,” advises Tara Brady in the Irish Times. “As with Blue Ruin, Green Room exists in lesser-spotted-America and makes for a gruesome battle of the sub-cultures. What begins as a nail-biting thriller effortlessly segues into carnage, replete with ripped throats and wounds that seek to redefine the word ‘gaping.'”
“Hitchcock/Truffaut highlights the influence of silent filmmaking throughout Hitchcock’s career,” notes Ben Kenigsberg at RogerEbert.com, “and if Saulnier’s movie is an eye-roller on a screenplay level, it delivers the goods in visual and visceral terms, with a lot of gory injuries and escalating nastiness.
Update, 5/27: “The movie’s especially good at puncturing the hardcore airs of its baddies, some of whom aren’t any more battle-hardened than the people they’re fighting, despite the tough-guy stances,” writes Buzzfeed‘s Alison Willmore. “Green Room, which doesn’t yet have a U.S. distributor, delivers hard-won jolts by actually treating its characters like flesh and blood humans who have no idea what they’re doing, but who are figuring it out—after all, their lives depend on it.”
Update, 5/29: Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn interviews Saulnier.
Cannes 2015 Index. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @KeyframeDaily. Get Keyframe Daily in your inbox by signing in at fandor.com/daily.