– by David Morgan-Brown
Green Room looked like a tightly set thriller revolving around the one lone location of a punk club out in the woods, which is what it is. It also looked like it had all the right ingredients for a nail-biting, white-knuckle intense thriller, but the end result feels bland, devoid of life, and peppered with disappointments.
A young punk band called The Ain’t Rights are taking their van around the Pacific Northwest when they suitably enough play at a very punk-orientated club, located way out in the woods far from civilisation (a classic horror trope this film borrows). Just before leaving for their next underpaid gig, the band accidentally stumble upon the freshly dead body of a regular at the club, and through a series of aggressive miscalculations and miscommunications (from the band and the club’s patrons), The Ain’t Rights are held captive with very little idea of what they’re in for and what’s in store for them.
Green Room seems to be getting very respectable reviews from all over the place, mainly from its intended audience (of a slightly young and slightly wild crowd), but it felt like a flaccid disappointment to me. I could see tension being built and constructed, ready to come down on the characters in the films last third, but the execution of this must’ve been off.
Perhaps a little theatrics and character hyperbole wouldn’t have been missed in a film like this. Patrick Stewart plays the club owner who is orchestrating the whole circus of keeping the band in the room whilst trying to take them out from the outside in. I would call this character menacing, ruthless, and conniving, but really Stewart’s character has just as benign a presence as his younger skinhead gang. The problem with the characters is that none of them really are interesting or playfully performed at all, they’re simply amiably written and acted vessels that continue to lead this story. There are not many adjectives you can use to describe either set of characters, except ‘sarcastic’ for the band members and ‘a bit threatening’ for the club patrons.
It also doesn’t help that there are plenty of moments when I wanted to scream at the characters through the screen (a common effect of trashy horror films) to tell them how they may be able to escape without their own stupidity getting them hurt or killed – you want to be on the side of the band, until you find out their ridiculous plans to escape.
This gives me the feeling that Green Room doesn’t quite want to be a horror film (and it’s a bit disgusting, but not scary), though it’s willing to borrow whatever horror tropes it needs to make it scarier – which actually make it less scary. For example, one common new styling of modern horror movies is the constant use of music (specifically spooky and moody ambient music), which is apparently meant to strengthen the tension, but instead breaks it – tension is far easier to conjure from a scene of quietness rather than constant noise. Take a look at the nastiest films of Green Room’s ilk, such as Last House on the Left or Funny Games, and you’ll see they don’t bother with mood-killing music, but Green Room’s inclusion of it indicates it feels safer and cosier with these egregiously common horror film customs.
Green Room may ultimately be seen as an immediately effective film, one that puts audience members through the delightfully gory and icky grinder while it’s playing, but has no resonant lasting effect, which may leave viewers with little to talk about once it’s over. For me, the modern-day slickness and conventional sheen subduing the creativity of the film makes it an underwhelming entry in an otherwise enjoyable sub-sub-genre.