You know that puzzle where you have to get a fox and a chicken and some grain across a river? Green Room is like that, only the river is a neo-Nazi club-house, the grain is a punk band who have witnessed a brutal murder, the chicken is some furious men with guns and the fox is a load of pitbull terriers. Oh, and in this version, they don’t all get across the river.
It’s the third film from Blue Ruin director Jeremy Saulnier, and it further amplifies his already considerable penchant for violence, with graphic depictions of slicing and mauling and shooting and stab-stab-stabbing. Its a taut, claustrophobic horror that harks back to 70s teensploitation, dangles a couple of toes in the murky water of Eli Roth’s torture porn, and then goes all Shallow Grave. But it’s also gorgeous, far prettier than a film shot in a grimy shack covered with fascist graffiti has any right to be. One sequence takes place during the band’s set: the hardcore drone of punk fades to hazy, Sofia Coppola-style synths while the camera bobs in slow-motion through a balletic mosh pit full of spitting, shoving, spinning Nazi punks, and it’s kind of beautiful.
The relentlessly escalating tension is kept in check by snappy, sparse dialogue, a dark seam of humour, and likable turns from the young stars (and one old one). Saulnier happily rejects superfluous concepts like exposition, back-story and allegory: the only question that matters is how this band is going to get out of this god damned green room.