Saulnier seems aware of how unpleasant these scenes can get, but his attempt to balance out their sour demeanor by pumping them full of hokey dialogue makes the moments of levity undermine the story’s tension. Being held hostage in a grimy venue filled with skinheads and fresh corpses should be enough to stiffen the most hardened members of the band, so it’s hard to feel a sense of danger when the captives are cracking jokes seconds after their friend has been executed in front of them. If Saulnier had found ways to give any of these characters some dramatic weight past their witty remarks, his liberal disposal of them as the band works their way towards an escape could have been an exhilarating fight for survival, but he seems to regard each one as a collection of limbs to be hacked off or blown away.
Not that the rough acting gives us any reason to believe otherwise, with only a few characters being brought past screaming whenever a weapon flashes into view or wandering around solemnly. Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner, and Joe Cole comprise the band and, despite being given the most screen time, are indistinguishable past their temperaments ranging from volatility to cowering frailness, making the progressive thinning of their group feel like the dreary procession of assorted deaths found in the most indulgent horror movies. The majority of the cast grind through the film in a similar manner; Imogen Poots is practically apathetic despite being a young skinhead thrust into the fight alongside the band after her friend is murdered and Patrick Stewart seems uninterested in anything besides getting the growing pile of bodies in his club swept out the door.
Mark Webber and Macon Blair create the most interesting characters in the movie as two skinheads defecting from the group for different reasons, but they’re sidelined until the climax. Their clunky additions to the story and the inconsistent tone of the film give the impression that Saulnier may not have fully figured out what experience he wants us to have, with him showcasing how gratuitously he can rip apart some kids to cover up any signs of the movie’s dissonance. Green Room feels like a step backwards from Blue Ruin, forgetting the kind of dense world that pulled us into that film’s story and leaving little reason for us to pry into its shallow and confused one.