‘Let’s watch a gruesome horror film in the slightly unnerving environment of an underground nightclub,’ is something you’ll never hear me suggest. Yet that’s exactly what I found myself doing for an early screening of Green Room, an awfully pleasant punk rock slasher in which members of a band try to avoid getting sliced up like shallots in a Martha Stewart cooking tutorial. That kind of thing doesn’t usually affect me, but my unfamiliar surroundings were certainly enhancing the experience. With all the screaming and flinching going on there would have been no way of knowing if an actual massacre was taking place. I would have just sat there while a machete-wielding maniac carved their way through the audience. This is exactly why you should never leave the house.
Directed by Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin), Green Room follows The Ain’t Rights, a punk rock band so desperate for a gig they agree to play to a crowd of white supremacists. Opening their performance with a song called ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’ probably wasn’t the best idea, but they somehow manage to get through it with only a few bottles being thrown at their heads.
When they return to their green room and stumble upon a dead body with a switchblade stuck in its skull, the band are forced to barricade themselves inside and fend off violent skinheads led by Captain Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). What follows is a Texas Chainshaw Massarce-esque nightmare, in which the characters are gruesomely picked off in an unpredictable order. Survival depends on their ability to turn anything they can find into deadly weapons – box cutters, fluorescent light bulbs, cushions, whatever.
It might seem an odd thing to say about a film that features an arm being hacked until it looks like a Turkey Twizzler, but Green Room doesn’t have too much in common with perverse horrors like Saw and Hostel. There’s far more depth to characters like Pat (Anton Yelchin) and Amber (Imogen Poots), who keep up their punk rock pretense, but, when faced with death, are willing to admit they like artists like Prince and Madonna. It’s the sense of authenticity that makes it all the more disturbing, the detailed insight into band life and the venues they play. It’s as if Saulnier actually gives a shit about what he’s making. He’s made a horror film that matters. Seeing someone’s throat ripped out has never been so refreshing.