Given punk rock’s nihilistic attitude, shocking imagery and enduring youth appeal, you’d think there’d be a bigger market for punksploitation movies. Not dramas or documentaries, but cheap, pulpy flicks with gratuitous violence and earsplitting music. Aside from Mark Lester’s “Class of 1984,” about high-schoolers run amok, there are barely enough movies to constitute a genre.
Add to this short list Jeremy Saulnier’s late-arriving entry, “Green Room,” a low-budget horror-thriller about a hard-core band terrorized by rabid skinheads. “Green Room” has all the right elements: a young cast, a bleak backdrop, a pummeling soundtrack and a visceral atmosphere of terror and stale beer.
Anton Yelchin, the pixieish actor who plays Chekov in the new “Star Trek” films, plays Pat, the soft-spoken bassist for the hard-core group The Ain’t Rights. Their current hard-luck tour reaches a nadir when they play a neo-Nazi outpost in rural Oregon, a bad place for their kind of music and an even worse place to witness a murder. Now trapped in a dressing room with a dead girl and a very live one (Imogen Poots as Amber, a jaded local), the musicians must figure out a way to escape.
Writer-director Saulnier spent some time on the hard-core scene of his native Virginia, and it shows. “Green Room” is full of authentic details, from the old-school mohawks to the skinheads’ skinny “braces” (suspenders, for you outsiders). “Green Room” often feels downright nostalgic: The only evidence that we’re not in 1995, or even 1985, are the cellphones (quickly confiscated) and a briefly glimpsed poster for the latter-day band The Dillinger Escape Plan.
Dropped into this punk-Peckinpah bloodbath is a delightful Patrick Stewart as Darcy, the skinhead leader who preaches calm (“It’s a movement, not a party”) while commanding his minions to maim and dismember. Other standouts include Alia Shawkat as the band’s bassist and Macon Blair as a (relatively) nice white supremacist.
In terms of plot and structure, “Green Room” unfolds about as gracefully as a first-time slam-dance, but the rough edges are part of the appeal. Listen for Bad Brains and Napalm Death on the soundtrack.