Movies featuring demons, ghosts, witches, dolls that come to life or even possessed automobiles have a certain amount of scare value. But no matter how much movies use these means to make you scream and shout, there’s always some little thought in the back of your mind that says, “This isn’t real.”
“Green Room” is really scary because almost every second is buried neck-deep in reality. The events that happen to the punk rock band, the Ain’t Rights, could happen to any band playing for an audience that, if the Nazi flags are any clue, has never celebrated Martin Luther King Day.
That’s scary stuff.
Even the Ain’t Rights wouldn’t have accepted the job in the isolated Oregon woods had they not been so down on their luck. The band has to steal gasoline just to make it to the next tour stop that ends up being canceled. Realizing the tour is over, the band needs to find a way to get home back on the East Coast.
They aren’t certain about the job in a bar that is so wild even the bouncers from “Road House” would have left. Poverty proves a powerful motivator and the band plays the show. All seems well until they are leaving and see something in the green room – the place where artists wait to perform – that puts them in deadly danger.
Except for one magical moment with duct tape, everything that happens from that point is possible. And the best scares always are the ones that ring true.
Go back and watch the original “Halloween” and up to the point where Michael Myers falls out the window, that film’s scariness is planted in reality. Horror is at its best when the terror could occur in your world.
The Ain’t Rights are forced to make a decision: Do you give into what you know to be morally wrong, or face certain death? It’s easy for the audience to relate to the fight or flight scenario, especially with Alia Shawkat’s character, who as the only female member of the band. She shows the right amount of fear without making the character feel like all of the women in horror films who get killed after a stupid decision.
Director/writer Jeremy Saulnier makes the situation relatable through the band members who go from shocked, to frightened to surviving on pure instinct. The moment when the band members go from being helpless victims waiting to be eliminated one by one to hatching a plan to battle back is spelled out very clearly through a story Pat (Anton Yelchin), the band’s unofficial leader, tells about playing paintball.
That’s clever writing because it answers questions from any skeptics who can’t believe members of a punk rock band would ever gather this much courage.
Saulnier has also created a real-life monster in bar owner Darcy Banker (Patrick Stewart). The horror he creates doesn’t come by leaping from dark spaces or by actions accented by a loud crescendo of music. There’s a quiet thread of evil that comes though the soft, but commanding, voice of the man who creates the plan to eliminate the band.
Those who live next door to Banker would describe him as a quiet man who kept to himself. They would never know from his general demeanor that he puts his own interests above the value of human life.
The director must be a “Star Trek” fan – he brings together Stewart from the syndicated series, “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and Yelchin from the new series of “Star Trek” movies. Both are good actors, which probably earned them the jobs. But it is a nice nod to all the “Trek” fans.
An absence of a supernatural element keeps “Green Room” from earning an automatic spot in the horror genre. A strong case can be made that this is one of the scarier horror films because it doesn’t rely on the unrealistic world of ghost and goblins. It is painfully real in delivery and brutal in concept.
It puts the real in really scary.