Green Room is not a horror movie. In fact, it reminds me exactly why I’m semi-retired from the horror game. Really, it’s a gruesome (just for the sake of it), blood-splatter-by-numbers torture thriller with weak characters, a predictable plot and a disturbingly unsatisfying resolution. There’s absolutely nothing to it, really. Director Jeremy Saulnier has just swapped stoner teenagers for a punk rock band, hillbillies for Nazis and surgically removed all traces of artistic film-making. And By the end, you don’t even care who lives or dies.
It all started about a week ago. I was talking to a friend, who I’d just discovered is a massive horror movie fan. The way she talked about the films she’d seen recently made me feel nostalgic. It had been ages since I’d watched a good horror. I missed it.
The last one I sat through was The Babadook, which typifies recent horror flicks. It’s just so predictable, uninspiring and… meh… More a collection of forced-seeming and overly familiar scenes than a movie you actually connect to. There’s no craft. No suspense. No tension. Yet it’s got INSANELY good reviews on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. People love it. I guess I’m just looking for something a little different. More engaging. More sensory. Less shlock. Less cliches and cheap thrills, and blood just for the hell of it. There’s got to be something you can hook it all to.
So anyway, this friend started telling me about Green Room, and how it’s about this punk band called the Ain’t Rights. I checked it out, and it, too, is universally acclaimed, with a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 79% rating on Metacritic. “What the hell, must be good,” I thought.
Things start off well. The Ain’t Rights are literally running on empty, scraping their way through the Pacific Northwest on fumes. They’re wearing all the right t-shirts, they’ve got all the right stickers and they’re dropping all the right band names; Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, Misfits, Poison Idea, Slayer, The Distillers… And I’m sucked in. So far so good.
Down on their luck, and desperate for cash, the Ain’t Rights take a gig at a Nazi skinhead bar deep in the woods. First they piss off the crowd by opening with the Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” Then they see something they weren’t supposed to see backstage, in the green room. Dun dun dun…
One of the Nazi locals, Werm (Brent Werzner) has stabbed a woman in the head and her body’s lying, nonchalantly, in the middle of the room. The girl’s friend, Amber (Imogen Poots), asks Ain’t Rights bassist Pat (Anton Yelchin) to call the cops. But the Nazis grab his phone and lock the band in the green room with the dead girl, Amber and a massive Nazi dude called Big Justin (Eric Edelstein).
And that’s all there is to it, really – minus a trivial lovers spat. From there, it’s all about them trying to escape the room. Being systematically killed, ripped to shreds and even getting their throats torn out by killer pit bulls. Then, of course, the two surviving members, Pat and Amber, extract some kind of revenge and things end.
The biggest surprise is Patrick Stewart’s role as Nazi club owner, leader and drug kingpin Darcy. What was his agent thinking. And more importantly, why do people like these kind of movies? There’s no suspense. No creativity. No originality. No character depth. Nothing. Just a bunch of teenagers. A bunch of Nazis. And buckets of blood. It’s not even scary. Do people even feel anything watching these films? I just felt annoyed.
I don’t get it. I’m not even sure what I’m looking for. Something more like Drag Me to Hell, Event Horizon, Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, Chucky… Not all this two-dimensional, imitative and soulless crap like Paranormal Activity, The Conjuring, The Purge, Hostel… and Green Room. I know, I feel like an old man trying to listen to tween wave. But surely there are good horror movies out there. Classic horror movies. Movies you actually care about. Movies that actually terrify you and make you feel alive. Or just feel anything, really.