You had me at “Patrick Stewart: White Supremacist.” Green Room is an unconventional horror film, which succeeds by making believable and uncompromising decisions about how it plays out. To avoid spoilers, I’ll stick with the official log-line: “After witnessing a murder, a punk rock band is forced into a vicious fight for survival against a group of maniacal skinheads.”
I almost feel like calling the villains in the film “maniacal” undersells how sympathetically and intelligently they’re presented. The fact that they cast Patrick Stewart as the ringleader is a good example. The precision and matter-of-factness with which these folks attempt to cover up the messy situation makes them miles more terrifying than your typical redneck madmen. Of course the punk rockers in question aren’t going down without a fight. While Stewart gives the only real standout performance, all the characters feel honest and unique. The movie works, because it’s presented as if a handful of losers are just living their lives until a predictably shady situation turns unfortunately for the worse. The way it’s filmed reinforces this. It’s mostly naturalistic, with a hint of uncomfortable grime that reflects the feeling of living out of a van and performing at a dive bar while hungover.
It’s also paced nearly perfectly, with just the right amount of frantic deliberation between action beats, as the tension slowly ratchets up to crescendo. Only one brief beat near the end feels weirdly out of place, suggesting that the movie might have originally ended with a slightly different focus. It’s easy to forgive though, since the movie ends perfectly.
Green Room is messy, and terrifying, and surprisingly funny at times. But what works best about this particular game of cat and mouse is that every action comes from believable character decisions and motivations. The scares come, not from the violence or jumpy musical queues, but from the understanding that its protagonists are deeply and truly out of their league in a situation that they cannot opt out of. It’s a rare horror film that I would recommend even to those who aren’t fans of the genre. To those who are already horror nuts, Green Room is an absolute must see!