The young writer/director Jeremy Saulnier has become one of the brightest new voices on the American independent scene after his second film Blue Ruin was so well-received, and he follows it up here with an equally assured and accomplished piece which marks him out even more as a filmmaker to watch. As before, it’s another film that stays firmly rooted to its genre but plays a straight hand with intelligent writing and a clutch of committed performances from its (now quite high-profile, given the esteem with which Saulnier is now held) cast. Again, he doesn’t shy away from gruesome depictions of violence, here spun around a punk-rock band who find themselves pitched up against white supremacists at a remote gig after accidentally witnessing a murder.

It’s the most technically slick film in Saulnier’s career so far, with his use of score and editing now reaching a highly stylised point, complimented by a very well-considered script that consistently portrays intelligent characters who are not to blame for the horrible things that happen to them, thereby never sacrificing our respect or sympathy for them. There’s also an uncomfortable but very welcome streak of gallows-black humour that never quite goes away, putting one in mind of the sort of films John Carpenter used to make in his heyday. It’s as though someone took an unused grindhouse script from the 70s, rewrote it with fierce intelligence, and then shot it to look like an arthouse horror movie. Where Saulnier goes from here should be fascinating.

A gruesome, violent throwback to 1970s horror/thrillers7
Jeremy Saulnier's increasingly confident directing8
Jeremy Saulnier's increasingly intelligent screenwriting9
A consistently dark sense of humour throughout8
Never quite moving away from the simplistic genre pieces it draws inspiration from5
Bechdel Test passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The named female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test failures
  • n/a
7Overall Score

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