Standing as one of this year’s most talked-about festival movies so far, “Green Room” promises one hell of a great set up for horror fans seeking something a bit different. But does it live up to the reputation set upon it?
Well, in some ways yes, but first et’s take a gander at that story. Directed by Jeremy Saulnier, a punk band get pulled into playing a gig at a neo-Nazi bar in the middle of “Who-Knows-Whereville” where after the show they get drawn into a really horrid position as they stumble into the green room, only to find someone dead on the floor. They are suddenly trapped as the gang tries to fix the situation, all the time with the band not knowing what their fate will be. Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, and Allum Turner play the band members, while Patrick Stewart stars as the Nazi gang leader.
I’m guessing quite a few of you sat up a little reading that bizzare premise for a horror title, and then REALLY took notice once the name of Patrick Stewart was thrown into the fray. It is a strange, strange combination of elements that definitely gives it the feel of a midnight screening hit. The start is pretty timid, with the punk band fuelled literally by the petrol of any car they find parked and can rob, and it is clear they are not exactly setting the music scene alight with their songs. But, a gig’s a gig, and so they venture into the one joint no one would ever want themselves to enter. I mean shit, a Donald Trump rally would be more welcoming.
But once the big scene hits and everything goes from being pretty bad to fucking terrifying, the movie takes on a new face and plays the slow-boiling tension that honestly, is an aspect of horror that I almost enjoy as much as big splashy gore. Don’t worry though, the latter is here too and they make fine work of the practical effects and fake blood packs. It is Patrick Stewart’s character Darcy that really inserts the genuine threat into the film, where before it felt worrying, but nothing this band couldn’t handle. But then all of a sudden he walks into the frame and plays the antagonist negotiator role, and you can never tell when he’s being honest, or setting up a ploy to kill them all. He is the clinical and defiant mind within the group, making sure that whatever happens, it won’t be them that get caught for the fuck-up.
It is made all the better by Stewart playing the role in a very serious manner. He could so easily have just chewed the walls through the whole film, but he is properly un-nerving even though his voice is calm for the majority of the time. The band members have a nice variation to each of their characters, with the classic swings between fighting each other, falling into despair, and banding together to take on the gang.
Once the action sets in, it is in relative small spurts, but very effective. Every moment of gore has a real weight to it, some of which had me squirm in my seat. One in particular with someone’s arm has me recoiling right now just thinking about it, just some fantastic practical work. Rather than being lavish or over-the-top, the moments feel to have a lot of thought and design put into them, from the lighting and camera angles, to their effect on the overall progression of the story. For a production that was done for under $10 million, it was both a very clever AND effective means of giving the fans what they want to see.
Now, I know that this has been getting some rave reviews, especially at the festivals before it got picked up for widespread release. It had me really pumped to check it out. But afterwards…. I felt just a tad let down. There’s something in the manner the neo-Nazi gang are portrayed initially that doesn’t make them seem as threatening as you want them to be. They’re a bunch of bruisers throwing bottles at the band while they play, but I didn’t get the big moment of showing them as diabolical. You get snippets of it in scenes as they are planning outside of the green room, but some of it felt a bit detached. It is such a difficult thing to explain, but I didn’t get the sense of real dread from them as I was expecting to. Except for Darcy though.
Even with this issue though, I still had a great time watching “Green Room”. It was cool to see such a mental idea turned into a properly entertaining and tense piece, all brought together by a very good cast and excellent effects team. This is an example of someone taking a chance on something different, and yielding some quality from it. It is unfortunate that it wasn’t as scary as I was expecting – more of a tense thriller than a horror to be honest, but a very good tense thriller with horror notes. Well recommended for the cult fans as well as those needing a break from the AAA blockbusters.
Thanks for reading!