Living a horror movie (and the film Eli Roth wishes he could make)
Stephen King makes a fine living for himself by scaring the shit out of people like you and me. A quote of his has always stuck with me. It's about the three types of fear he utilizes when he writes, and I think it's informative no matter the medium.
“I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I'll go for the gross-out. I'm not proud.”
In the 2015 film "Green Room" director Jeremy Saulnier goes for the first two as frequently as possible. It's a film that will remind frequent horror film watchers of a myriad of Eli Roth directed features in many ways (hence the headline): its tone, its look and its overall feel. But it differs in a number of fashions, which I'll outline here.
First, it's a good movie. I know, you've never seen a roast of a successful director this good. Roth works as a director, actor, producer and writer on a variety of films that all kind of feel the same. They're over the top, they're fucking gross, they look similar and the characters don't just swear a lot, but in a way that's distinctly different than how humans do. I suppose that's a point of pride for Roth; which, cool. We all need a hobby.
That comes at a cost because it cheapens the overall quality of the films he creates. Hostel is a horror movie for people who thought, "man, the 'Saw' franchise needs to be rapier." His most recent film, "Green Inferno" shows he's not exactly adept with race relations and "The Sacrament," which he produced, is terrifying, but an exploitation of the Jonestown Massacre. That's a problem.
Let's circle back to "Green Room," a film that for at least one great sequence sucked me into the haunted houses I find myself in for a month and a half every year. Anton Yelchin and company burst out of the titular room and into a labyrinth — the tension is absolutely spectacular. The film hits another gear here and I recommend watching for it alone. So do it.
That sequence got me thinking: what other horror films hit that level? Both "The Blair Witch Project" (and its reboot) have a similar sequence, and my favorite horror film, "The House of the Devil" builds to a great climax. "The Shining" gets its hedge maze, and will be featured at Halloween Horror Nights this fall.
Earlier this year, "Get Out" built a movie around the concept of escape while "Don't Breathe" did so to an even greater extent. For years horror films have used claustrophobia and used tension to suck us into their worlds and "Green Room" is just a recent example. Not all horror films can terrorize for the entire run time; but I'll take one "Shining" moment when I can get it.