It takes a lot to make a truly terrifying film, and in this day and age, where horror is starting to run out of ideas (or rather, choosing to only focus on cheap thrills and jump scares), the possession or haunted house storyline is getting a bit too cliched and obvious – and with the exception of The Conjuring, these popular horror tropes are not working anymore. However, sometimes horror films come out that are truly brutal and original, and sometimes, we watch a horror film without even knowing that it is a horror film, and rather something else. One such film is Green Room, one of the more unconventional and unique horror films I’ve seen, mainly because the film starts out like any other musical drama, or perhaps just a very dark thriller. However, I was shocked to find myself utterly terrified, and whether or not it was the intention, Green Room was one of the most legitimately scary films of the year.
Why are horror films so superficially scary? I don’t dislike the genre in any way, but I sometimes feel like horror is one of the least effective cinematic genres, mainly because of the fact that nearly every other genre stays with you – you can recall funny moments from comedies, sad moments from dramas, hum along to songs from musicals and think over the mysteries and solutions of crime films. With the exception of perhaps not being able to fall asleep that night, horror films aren’t effective in staying with you, mainly because modern horror cinema has become lazy (and not all of it, there are still some genuinely brilliant mainstream horror films) and rely only on shock tactics and cheap scares – and while a jump scare does do exactly that, a few seconds later, you’ve forgotten all about it, and will move on. The fact of the matter is horror cinema has recreated the idea of ghosts and poltergeists, and whether you believe in them or not, you have to admit the preoccupation with using them to scare is becoming slightly…boring? I am well-aware that people love these kinds of cheap-thrills, but they don’t work for me anymore, and I just find myself left cold by them.
That’s where Green Room comes in. There is not a ghost, demon, poltergeist or any other-worldly creature in sight throughout this entire film. Instead, it takes on some real-life monsters, far more terrifying than anything that fiction could stir up – right-wing, extremist Neo-Nazis. True villains of the world, they are far more malicious than many horror antagonists, and this is exactly what makes Green Room such a terrifying film – these people do exist, and they do partake in the terrorizing and violent actions that the film displays – and they are as terrifying as you’d expect in this film. If there was any chance that I wouldn’t want to encounter a group of Neo-Nazis before, this film solidified that desire. You won’t believe that Green Room is a horror film until you’re fully immersed in the brutal and nihilistic violence, and live through the fear that the characters encounter. It is one of the more subliminal and subtle horror films of recent years, in the way that it completely takes you by surprise and never lets you go until you are left suitably enraged and terrified.
Green Room concerns a punk band, named The Ain’t Rights, composed of Pat (Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Tiger (Callum Turner) and Reece (Joe Cole), who are desperately searching for gigs. By chance, they encounter the opportunity to perform for a crowd that apparently loves punk music – they just also happen to be far-right extremist Neo-Nazis, and while their music does entertain the crowd, they soon find themselves trapped in a room after witnessing a senseless murder – and they discover that they are going to be eliminated, because the owner, Darcy Banker (Patrick Stewart) believes that they are too dangerous, and any witnesses need to be killed. What follows is a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse, where the innocent band has to fend off a group of evil men who want them dead for simply being in the wrong place at the right time. Vicious tactics and some killer dogs are used to destroy the band, and in typical slasher horror fashion, the band members are killed off one by one, until only one remains.
It is very sad to see Anton Yelchin in a film now – he was a supreme talent and someone who had such an amazing future ahead of him, and his life was cut needlessly short by a tragic accident. Green Room is a bizarre film for Yelchin, because I never really took him for the type who would be in a punk band. He wasn’t as convincing as one would think, but considering that The Ain’t Rights are more hipster-punk than pure-punk explains this. Yelchin was a great actor, and it was really sad to see him in this film, because it was clear his career hadn’t even reached its fullest potential yet. This won’t be the last time we see Yelchin, as he still has some films that will be posthumously released, but it will only serve to remind us of the great actor that Yelchin could have become, given more time. The rest of the band is pretty conventional, if not unremarkable. Patrick Stewart is intense and terrifying as the leader of the Neo-Nazis, and while he also seems slightly miscast (and his American accent isn’t as good as I would have hoped), he did a great job with the material. Imogen Poots was nothing special, and I am not quite sure where her career is headed, but it doesn’t seem to be very effective in films like Green Room, where she doesn’t really work well with the material.
Green Room is a great film. It was one of the scariest and most intense films I’ve watched in a while, and it goes to show that horror lurks in the most unconventional places. It may not do well to explore the themes of punk and its culture as much as I would have liked to (I will admit the main reason I was excited for this film was because it was about a punk band), it was still a great film and one that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. I thought it was a great film that terrified me beyond belief, and while some may argue its not a true horror film, it is certainly horrifying enough to be considered one.