Green Room

An intelligent and electrifying horror

Usually me and horror don’t mix particularly well. Almost two months on and I am still occasionally haunted by visions of Black Phillip the goat from The Witch and I still feel a bit twitchy when I think about what I would do if I were to be trapped in a basement 10 Cloverfield Lane – style (is it normal to worry about that as a hypothetical scenario..?) But then again, Green Room isn’t your typical horror film. Yes there is gore (I’ve become very aware of my hands for the past hour since watching) but it is never overused. Whilst the narrative follows a ‘well-that-escalated-quickly’ structure it is founded in a series of cause-and-effect plot points that seem both believable and terrifying in equal measure. Then when you chuck in the superb pacing, swift editing, nerve-shredding soundtrack and  some superb character performances…well you’re in for a great time!

“The Ain’t Rights” are a punk band who are travelling through the Pacific Northwest, playing gigs and scrummaging whatever they can to get by.  The band – formed of Pat (Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reece (Joe Cole) and Tiger (Callum Turner) – end up playing a gig in rural Seaside, Oregon to a club filled with Neo-Nazi skinheads.Upon seeing their Anti-Semitic surroundings Pat jokingly suggests they play a cover of The Dead Kennedys “Nazi Punks Fuck Off!” The band play the song during their set to  a less than receptive audience. Set over and cash in hand they make a move to leave, a move which the show organiser hastens to speed up, when Pat has to run back to grab the band’s mobile which they left charging. He stumbles across the scene of one of the skinheads leaning over the body of a young female punk with her still-alive friend Amber (Imogen Poots) rendered numb in disbelief. The band are then locked in the green room with the pair and the dead body. Reinforcements are called in the form of club owner Darcy (Patrick Stewart). The band have seen too much. Will any of them make it out alive?

There are so many reasons to like this movie. I want to say enjoy but considering the subject matter and content the verb ‘enjoy’ seems in rather poor taste. Semantics aside this is a cracking horror film. The slow-build of tension, the overwhelming sense of inevitability and the shock factor of many of moments. This is a film made with an equal blend of style and substance. The film looks damn good – the shots are well chosen with some excellent lighting choices that make for truly memorable sequences.

All of these factors would be pointless were it not for the excellent performances that drive the story. The characters are presented in a way that is a balance between wanting them to live but not really knowing them well enough to mourn any losses that occur on the way. You experience a degree of ‘oh no!’ because you care about them when certain things may or may not happen but are detached enough from them to not feel too aggrieved should/when something happens to them. Yelchin is superb as the accidental leader of punk trope. Poots is truly kick-ass as a female character who is not just cast to the sidelines, doesn’t spend the entirety of the film in shades of hysteria and who is capable of holding her own in certain situations. This is definitely/hopefully  showing a changing of the tide in Hollywood horror as her character is in line with that of Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the aforementioned 10 Cloverfield Lane. And then there’s Patrick Stewart as a properly scary baddie – whose calm and collected demeanor is unbearably (in a good way) unnerving to watch.   

Tense and taut (clocking in at 94 minutes) with some powerfully acted performances along with an admirably well-written script that is black humour laden this is definitely worth a watch.

4 stars

Disorder

An intense and intimate voyeuristic thriller

How many films are there that feature a character with PTSD (post-traumatic-stress-disorder)? Then, let’s narrow it down, how many of the those films are about PTSD sufferers who fought in Afghanistan?  Finally, how many of those films use the PTSD to shape the storytelling process, making the story as unreliable as it’s narrator? I suspect that Disorder may be alone in this regard which makes for a mostly refreshing if at times nerve-splintering film-watching experience.

Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts ) is a French Special Forces soldier who is currently back from a tour of Afghanistan. His latest health check-up indicates that it will be his last as due to his various  health problems his doctor will not be recommending him for service, something that he appears to be in denial about. He and a group of his friends are hired by Jessie (Diane Kruger), the wife of a rich Lebanese  businessman, to provide security at a party they are holding at her villa. Vincent starts to develop a strange fascination with Jessie, whilst at the same time starting to suspect a dangerous threat is going to target her and her young son, and he begins to be consumed by paranoia. Is there really a threat, or is it a result of his disorder?

A month ago, in my review for A Bigger Splash I talked about Matthias Schoenaerts and said “He is currently one of the most interesting and underappreciated supporting actors in cinema at the moment, and I greatly look forward to seeing more of his (admittedly rather beautiful) self.” After seeing Disorder, I stand by what I said. Schoenaerts carries this movie, his scowl/brooding combination is utilized to excellent effect. His mannerisms subtly display his inner turmoil, he never needs to clearly state ‘I am suffering from PTSD’ (in fact that is something his character who never admit) but it’s clear from every single scene that this is a man who is suffering. Vincent’s innate paranoia served with a side of voyeurism makes for an unnerving central character who is haunted but hunky. In fact whilst watching his performance I remembered some of the minor backlash that James Norton received for Happy Valley with a (thankfully small  minority) saying that he was ‘too good-looking to be a murderer’. It’s a stupendously flawed logic to have, implying that attractiveness and committing crime share a correlation. Yes Schoenaerts is attractive, but that does not enhance nor detract from his performance here. His performance is wonderful, if that adjective can be used to describe something so unsettling, and the best thing about the film.

A close-tied second place would be the soundtrack and the cinematography. The former is throbbing, jarring and frequently atonal (like Vincent’s mental state) whilst the latter is ambiguous, swamped by shadows and at times unhinged (again like Vincent’s mental state). Aside from these aspects, the film itself is rather slow with a rather porous plot that fizzles out. Worth seeing for Schoenaerts latest in an uninterrupted run of solid and charismatic performances, but rather forgettable.

An outstanding central performance in a good/mediocre film. Don’t put it too high on your ‘must-see list’ but worth a try.