by Sherry Lipp
There are many types of horror movies, but they usually all fall into one of two categories – ‘it could really happen’ or a supernatural ‘something is coming to get you.’ Green Room falls into the ‘it could really happen’ category. It’s a well-told tale of escalating violence and terror, but it’s so bleak and grim that the entertainment value fades into a sheer endurance test by the end. Though I enjoyed the set up and the performances, I was more than ready for this film to be done at the end of its 95-minute running time.
I think it’s best to watch films like this knowing as little as possible, so consider yourself warned that there may be spoilers ahead. As I mentioned earlier, the set up for this film is great. Weary punk band Ain’t Rights have traveled cross country from Washington D.C. to coastal Oregon for what they think is a good gig and an interview with a local music radio host. They’ve spent days on the road siphoning gas and sleeping in their beat up van, only to find out the gig was cancelled and the radio guy doesn’t have all that much clout.
What’s a struggling band to do? As it turns out the alternate gig that only paid six bucks a piece wasn’t the worst thing to happen to them. The radio guy has connections at a remote bar that’s frequented by skinheads. It’s not an ideal gig but the band is hungry for cash so they take it. They have to drive all the way back to D.C. after all.
The setting is already ominous. A ramshackle hut in the middle of a secluded wooded area is not exactly the ideal spot. However, the employees actually seem nice enough, which allows the band a false sense of security. They figure they can get through their set and get out, which almost is what happens. If only it wasn’t for those pesky cell phones. It turns out guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat) has left hers plugged in back in the green room. Bandmate Pat (Anton Yelchin) heads back to retrieve it. That’s where things go south so fast and unexpectedly you won’t know what hit you.
At that point the horror aspect takes off. Just like the members of Ain’t Rights, we’re kept in the dark about what’s really going on. All they, and we, know is that there’s a dead girl on the floor of the green room with a knife in her head. We soon learn who killed her, but we don’t know why. All the band knows at that point is that no one will let them leave.
As far as ‘impossible scenario’ situations, go this one seems insurmountable. There’s only one way out of the green room and that door is blocked by club owner Darcy (Patrick Stewart) and his henchmen. For a while the film is a clever game of wits and determination as the band tries to outsmart their captors. Their only ally is the dead girl’s friend Amber (Imogen Poots) who has a good idea of just how far the captors will go, but no more means of escape than they do.
The film is an adrenaline rush, but wears out its welcome before it reaches the end. As the violence grows more intense, and gory, the film becomes harder to watch. I enjoyed the interplay with the band as they tried to figure things out more than I enjoyed watching people get their throats ripped out by killer dogs. Nonetheless, I do recommend this film to those who enjoy intense thrillers and don’t mind realistic violence. Patrick Stewart’s understated performance as the villainous Darcy is excellent. Though not for the faint of heart, this film is well-made and well-acted, which makes it worth watching. I don’t think it will have much replay value once its secrets are known, but it’s worth that first viewing.
UPDATE JULY 4, 2016:
Like many others, we are deeply saddened by the sudden loss of Anton Yelchin. He was a promising young actor and we had looked forward to many more films from him. Just seeing his name in the credits made us want to see it that much more. We first look notice of Yelchin as Chekov in the new Star Trek films and have been recommending the underrated Fright Night remake since it came in out 2011. He had an impressive filmography for someone only 27 years old. He will be greatly missed in the film world.
Green Room Images: A24