Ginger Nuts of Horror
Now and again a horror film comes onto my radar that gets me genuinely excited. Partly it's the trailer, partly it can be the buzz surrounding but – as any regular Film Gutter reader will attest – one of the things that gets me going the most is when something is a bit different. A slew of my favourite actors doesn't hurt either, and Green Room certainly had both of the latter going for it. Patrick Stewart – leaping into the role of the villain, Anton Yelchin (whom I thought was a great lead in Odd Thomas) and the talented Imogen Poots is a great cast for any genre feature. Throw into that a brutal punk/metal soundtrack and this was a movie I was heartily looking forward to. I was also lucky enough to see this one at a special preview at Derby Film Festival, which played to an appreciative crowd. The ultimate conclusion was that this was more a gritty, unsettling thriller than it was a flat-out horror film, but a very good one at that.
So, the story follows an enigmatic punk band, The Ain't Rights, as they travel around in a camper van largely by virtue of siphoning petrol from other people's cars. Their latest stop takes them along for a radio interview, but when the mohawked host reveals that the show has been shut down he's really keen to make it up to the band. So he hooks them up with a gig – at a white supremacist 'nightclub' in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by skinheads and jackbooted, card-carrying neo-nazis, they launch into their first song – F**k Nazi Punks. Of course that hilarious gag doesn't really fly, but the rest of their set is well enough received.
The Green Room of the title refers to the very basic area put aside for talent and, having chilled out there beforehand, they realise that one of the members has left their phone in there. When they go to get it back, there's a dead girl on the floor with a knife buried in her head. And from there things go distinctly south as the neo-nazi community closes ranks to stop the band getting away from the site and reporting anything to the police. The Green Room becomes an effective haven, a place that may offer very limited safety but certainly more than they will find anywhere else in the vicinity. When head honcho Patrick Stewart arrives on site, the efforts to get our heroes to emerge from the green room – or simply to make sure they never leave – intensifies...
The quality of Green Room comes very much in the simplicity of its set-up – it's a tense, claustrophobic experience as the band try to plot some kind of escape from the unpleasant company plotting their death. But caught in a tiny room probably no more than 8 foot by 8 with only one exit rather complicates that matter. And, as the assaults on them grow in number and the weaponry arrayed against them increases, the sense of desperation and exhaustion becomes palpable. The characters are believable, and each is portrayed well by their performers – the band feels like a sort of unlikely array but that makes it even more plausible without the need to resort to stereotypes. The ending is a little confusing – not disappointing, but certainly not quite what I was anticipating – and for me that's what holds it back from absolute classic status. Personally there was a sense of fizzling out rather than the whole thing cranking up to a crescendo.
RATING: 8/10. Sometimes the big horror movies that generate buzz can end up being a bit disappointing, but happily that wasn't the instance with Green Room. Pacey, intense and well-played, this one is very much worth your time if there's a cinema near you screening this one. Once again it's a shame to see a pretty lauded genre film only getting a limited release, but it's not as commercial as much of the standard US fare, so I guess that's just the nature of the game.