Friday, 29 April 2016


Starring: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart
Writer: Jeremy Saulnier
Director: Jeremy Saulnier

After playing a gig in a remote backwoods club to an audience which seems to comprise mainly of neo-Nazi skinheads, punk rock band The Ain't Rights are packing up their gig and getting ready to leave as quickly as possible. Unfortunately they stumble upon the aftermath of a violent crime and are plunged into a desperate fight for survival as the club's owner Darcy (Stewart) decides that The Ain't Rights ain't right and need to be eliminated...

Jeremy Saulnier's previous film was the wonderful Blue Ruin, a memorable take on the revenge thriller which transcended its low, low budget to give us something beautifully shot, brilliantly acted and thoroughly involving. In the final analysis, Green Room may not be quite as distinctive as Blue Ruin but that takes nothing away from the fact that it's an almost unerringly tense piece of work, punctuated by bursts of startlingly brutal and gory violence (it's an 18 certificate in the UK and the rating is warranted). Once the battle lines are drawn, you're given very little opportunity to catch your breath and collect yourself.

The film's opening act skilfully fills in enough detail about the main characters for the audience to get to know them and therefore care about them when the brown stuff hits the rotating blades. These are not disposable characters in a guessing game of who's going to die and in what order (although you can do that if you like - you might get it wrong), you're presented with four different people, each with their own quirks. Kudos to Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole and Callum Turner for convincing not only as individuals but as a cohesive unit who would work well together in a band.

Initially, the band came across to me (and no doubt a few others) as a little pretentious - doing the earnest muso thing by denouncing social media in an interview and pointing out that all that matters is the live music experience - but as the minutes passed they became more and more likable and by the time they threw in a provocative cover of a Dead Kennedys song to a roomful of snarling white supremacists I was won over completely. All of which makes it so much harder when they're put in peril. And trust me, there's a whole load of peril.

Also along for the ride is skinhead girl Amber (Poots), a friend of the crime victim and also on Darcy's hitlist. From the beginning Amber is intent on fighting back - much more so than most of the band - but the character's resourcefulness never feels improbable and she doesn't transform into the kind of kick-ass action heroine that would prove too tempting for the vast majority of films in the genre.

In general the people on the other side of the Green Room aren't as well drawn, mostly because the film doesn't spend the same amount of time with them as it does with the Ain't Rights. However, Saulnier regular Macon Blair turns in another fine performance, portraying a man at ill at ease with his surroundings as his lead role in Blue Ruin but for somewhat different reasons.

As for Patrick Stewart, he looks like he's relishing his part as a very, very bad guy indeed. Again, the movie doesn't opt for the rabid, shouty, villainous archetype that it would have been so easy to employ. Darcy is calm, rational and businesslike about what has to be done and Stewart only needs to hint at the anger which lurks under the surface of an extremely dangerous man. He's in such control over the proceedings that you have to wonder if there's any chance of escape.

The standoffs are tautly wound, the gruesome action set-pieces are executed with brio and the 95-minute running time passes by in a blink. Green Room is an exciting, energetic rush of a thriller which will almost certainly delight those of a non-squeamish disposition and it's a movie that further confirms the blazing talent of Jeremy Saulnier. Can't wait for his next one.

Find me on Twitter: @darren_gaskell

Friday, 1 April 2016


Starring: Lauren Ashley Carter, Brian Morvant, Sean Young
Writer: Mickey Keating
Director: Mickey Keating

Darling (Carter) takes a house-sitting job in a building with a somewhat grim history, the tragic events of the past related to her by the property's owner (Sean Young in wonderful, amusingly icy form). You see, she shouldn't mention what went on but...

It isn't very long before the young woman's left on her own to take care of the place and it isn't very long after that when things take an eerie turn. Just who or what is making those noises that can be heard all over? Was there something lurking in the shadows? What's behind that permanently locked door? And what about that guy (Morvant) she met? Did they stumble across each other purely by chance or was it a calculated play on his part?

Mickey Keating's black and white chiller skilfully mixes atmospheric, suspenseful, disquieting horror with an arthouse eye for a beautifully composed scene. Every frame of Darling looks achingly gorgeous which often contrasts intriguingly with the grisly on-screen action. Yes, the plot may be on the slight side - girl moves into building, strange things happen - but there's enough substance here for the proceedings not to be swamped by the dazzling style.

Even if the stunning visual craft of the piece isn't the kind of thing that would normally win you over on its own the other reason you really should see this is the absolutely astonishing performance given by Lauren Ashley Carter in the title role. Many of her scenes are wordless and involve no one else but who needs dialogue and supporting players when you have an acting talent this mesmerising to watch. She draws you into Darling's world with artistry, her memorably and impressively haunted visage staying with me long after the end credits rolled. If you've ever seen Brief Encounter I'd like to say that Lauren Ashley Carter is arty horror's Celia Johnson, only far more haunted.

Of course, this is far from just 78 minutes of haunted looks but to say too much more about Darling the film and Darling the woman would be too much of a spoiler other to mention that Lauren Ashley Carter convinces throughout as a character who can be shy, sweet, suspicious, scared or scary (and many other things beginning with 's'). Hers is a bravura display which deserves to be seen as widely as possible, as does this strange, unnerving and sublime movie. This is horror that works hard to create deep-seated unease in the viewer rather than rushing to pile up bodies and is all the better for it. In fact it's fabulous, darling.