The strength of the horror genre lies in its ability to build up layers of tension and dread, to pile the audience’s fears into a fragile tower until it finally knocks out the foundations and allows the whole thing to come crashing down in a crescendo of terror. A good horror film repeats this throughout its runtime, creating mountains and valleys that work the viewer into an inescapable stupor of fright. It doesn’t sound particularly pleasant, but it’s a formula that has appealed to the masochistic side of countless fans throughout cinema’s history. Green Room is a masterwork in pacing. Anxiety is generated skillfully and without respite, and when it erupts into violence it doesn’t hold back.
It’s not a film for everyone. I still haven’t decided whether it’s a film for me. I’m more apologetic towards violence in cinema than some (see my piece of Refn’s Only God Forgives), but Green Room toes the line between hard-hitting gore and nauseating snuff. I’m not criticizing the film for it, but the violence certainly makes it a difficult piece to digest. I’m not comfortable saying I liked the film, but it’s hard to deny that it provides a visceral, unapologetic look at the depths of human depravity— and that’s exactly what it sets out to do.