Sunday, August 11, 2013

You're Next

There are movies that live up to expectations and there are movies that surpass them. I have to admit, if I hadn’t already heard of You’re Next on some of the movie websites I frequent I would have shrugged off the horror/thriller based on the lame and overly clichéd antics shown in the trailer. Word of mouth from various film festivals and conventions where the film played talked about how it toyed with expectations and delivered a healthy injection of awesome into a tired genre staple, that being the home invasion sub-genre.

After having seen an advance screening I can definitely agree that all the accolades the fans have been pouring over You’re Next are well deserved in every respect. This flick rocks hardcore.
The basic premise is that a family get-together turns into a never ending nightmare when three masked men begin picking them off one by one.

That sounds like a generic horror film, and the set-up at its core is. However, the film becomes much more than that. What looked like a simple rehash of The Strangers turns into one of the most involving and well-made thrillers in years.

The script by Simon Barrett (Frankenfish) takes its time getting to the main inciting incident where the three madmen begin their attack upon the Davison family, and thankfully developed the main characters enough that when the hammer falls we actually give a shit about them and are rooting for their survival.
Another plus is that the screenplay doesn’t make the characters out to be complete idiots. Usually in a movie of this type the characters do exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time. Sure a couple of the characters do make this mistake once in a while, but it doesn’t feel forced in order to rack up another kill for the body count. Events unfold organically for the most part and thankfully so.

Yet another refreshing plus is the writing for one specific character, Erin, played astoundingly by Sharni Vinson. Typically films from this genre are filled with scared, quivering women who can’t seem to do anything other than screaming, crying and holding onto the nearest man for protection. Not so here. Erin is written as a capable, confident and brave young lass who is not only sassy and instantly likable, but can hold her own at every turn against her would-be killers. As far as final girls go, she’s currently in the top spot as far as I’m concerned.
Director Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way to Die, segments from TheABCs of Death, V/H/S and V/H/S/2) not only has a steady and self-assured grasp on what makes for a truly suspenseful and thrilling ride, he knows how to get each and every actor to give their all to sell the situation they find themselves in and make their characters truly likable/despicable effortlessly. It’s a shame that this movie has been sitting on a shelf since 2011 due to lack of interest on the part of the distributors, but thankfully Lionsgate saw the potential and snatched it up. Wingard is going places in Hollywood. Mark my words.

The actors, who are a unique mix of thespians and filmmakers, all turn in work that is far and beyond anything an audience would ever expect from a graphically violent film such as this. As I mentioned earlier, Sharni Vinson is a revelation as Erin. She instills such a likability into her character that I had it pegged that a major twist would occur that would kill off her character early on just to fuck with the audience. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and I was dead wrong. She gives the film the edge it requires to work and she shoulders most of the burden gracefully.
Co-stars AJ Bowen as Crispian, Joe Swanberg (who is also a director) as Drake, Nicholas Tucci as Felix, Amy Seimetz (who is also a director) as Aimee, Rob Moran as Paul and Barbara Crampton as Aubrey all feel like a family, albeit a slightly dysfunctional one which makes them more realistic in my book. I was pleasantly surprised to see the lovely Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, From Beyond, Robot Wars, Castle Freak) once again. I’ve always admired her performances in genre films and she gives fans yet another knockout. Does she even age? Goddamn! But I digress… the supporting players, Wendy Glenn as Zee, Margaret Laney as Kelly and Ti West (director of House of the Devil and The Innkeepers) all fit in perfectly as well as the respective mates of the family members, although West does seem a little out of place in his truncated role.

The actors who play the killers, L.C. Holt as “Lamb Mask”, Simon Barrett as “Tiger Mask” and Lane Hughes as “Fox Mask”, are not only threatening physical presences but give their (sort-of) silent psychopaths a certain body language that is not only creepy, but completely effective. There is also a welcome sense of camaraderie between them that sets them apart from the villains in the aforementioned The Strangers as well. The masks they wore were somewhat unsettling too.
Although I did enjoy the film completely there are some bits that knock it down a notch or two. A couple of the characters do fall into that trap of doing something stupid in order to create false tension. For example - after one character is brutally murdered in the house in a closed off bedroom, another character stays alone in the room with the corpse. At this point in the story all the attacks have come from the outside in, and this particular death occurred inside the house. Therefore the killer is in the house, possibly even the same room as this idiot character. WTF?! Use your brain!

A particular kill is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen and was only added to get a rise out of the audience (trust me, you’ll know it when you see it), and the final shot is kind of a slap in the face just to add yet another “No!” stinger moment.
I also saw the big twist coming a mile away. There was a visual clue that was shown early on that clued me into it and I was disappointed that my prediction was correct. None of these are deal breakers, just minor slip ups in an otherwise awesome flick.

You’re Next is the kind of horror/thriller that is going to keep the genre alive and thriving for decades to come. As long as filmmakers like Adam Wingard, who understand what suspense is and can wring it out of any situation successfully, are working in the biz the genre will be in good hands. Smart, scary and filled with a stinging sense of dark humor, You’re Next is a sure-fire winner. I highly recommend you check it out when it is released in the next couple of weeks.

4 out of 5


No comments:

Post a Comment