Star Rating:

Green Room

Actors: Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Patrick Stewart

Release Date: Friday 13th May 2016

Genre(s): Crime, Horror, Thriller

Running time: 94 minutes

Horror, as a genre, is hard to defend. It's easily one of the most prolific genres in film today and yet, the vast majority of it is just hugely unimaginative.

Fog-horn horror, where jump-scares and loud soundtrack clangs, try to fill in for the lack of atmosphere and dread are now commonplace. Trying to build any kind of sense of dread or tension has gone completely from modern horror and what we're left with is poorly constructed, deeply rote sequences where attractive people are lazily hacked up. However, Green Room may just change all of that by bringing it right back to the start.

Star Trek's Anton Yelchin, Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat, War & Peace's Callum Turner and Peaky Blinders' Joe Cole are a struggling punk band who are booked to play a skinhead bar out in the middle of nowhere. From the very beginning, the characters are human and relatable. They're tired, they're worn-out from travelling and, more importantly, they're broke and on the verge of giving up on one another. They're made fully aware of the fact that the patrons at their gig are white supremacists when their first song directly antagonises them.As soon as their set finishes, they're set to leave as they fear the environment will turn against them. However, a simple mistake sees them walking into the middle of a murder and, from there, it gets worse. Much, much, much worse.Enter Patrick Stewart and Blue Ruin's Macon Blair, who quickly set about cleaning up the situation. As the band have barricaded themselves in the titular green room, the tension ramps up exponentially as they've also got one of the neo-Nazis in the room with them who they're holding hostage.

Trying to see Patrick Stewart as a neo-Nazi leader is, we'll admit, pretty tough. However, Stewart reigns himself in completely and transforms himself entirely. He's gone from being the benevolent authority figure we know him from so many roles to a haggard, brutally pragmatic vision of violence. There is nothing that his character won't do to protect his interests or those of his acolytes, lead by Macon Blair. Those who have seen Blue Ruin will know that Blair is able to give so much emotion and texture to a scene with the slightest of looks or gestures. Here, it's very much the same. We can see the terror and panic in his eyes, but he's internalising and handling it as best he can. When he's roughed up by Stewart, he takes it because he's under his thumb. Meanwhile, in the green room, Yelchin and Shawkat lead the performances alongside Imogen Poots, someone caught in the crossfire and equally desperate to get out.

Jeremy Saulnier's previous effort, Blue Ruin, was a mixture of beautiful cinematography and hideous violence - calling to mind Nicholas Winding Refn and early Michael Mann. Here, in Green Room, there's even more beauty and gore to be found in every frame. The light hue of green that surrounds the film adds a layer of peace to it, which makes it all the more horrifying when the action kicks off. The tension is sustained right through the entire film and, at times, it's almost exhausting to watch. You'll come away from Green Room breathing heavily and probably with white knuckles. Saulnier's ability to direct a tightly-wound, gruesomely shot action sequence is on full display here.There are definite moments where you'll be truly disgusted, but it's never done without a good reason. The gore and horror is in direct service to the story, something a lot of modern horrors just don't seem to get. There has to be context and understanding before you launch into extended blood-letting.

Green Room, thankfully, understands that you can't have blood without the heart pumping it. Fiendishly entertaining with a truly warped sense of humour fluctuating through it, Green Room will probably be the best horror of 2016.