Sunday, August 25, 2013

Review: You're Next

Hey Costume Shops? Around Halloween, you should maybe stock up on some animal masks. Just a suggestion. Thank me later.

As I’ve mentioned before, 2013 is shaping up to be the year of movies that have been gestating for…let’s just say longer than usual. And like last year’s Cabin in the Woods or 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat, You’re Next is a movie that’s been completed for a while (supposedly first screening in it’s entirety in 2011) but for one reason or another hasn’t seen release until now. Of those two, I think Trick ‘r Treat is the more apt comparison, because it’s not exceptionally deep or complicated, but it still kicks a surprising amount of ass.

The plot…is pretty uninteresting, at least at the setup. A rich family, who’s members don’t entirely get along, head out to a secluded house in the wood for their parents 35th Anniversary. During a dinner, they find their house under attack by mysterious men wearing animal masks and wielding crossbows amongst other things. At that point the movie becomes an extended Straw Dogs recreation, as the family must fight off the invaders with whatever they can find around.

As you can probably guess, the first act of this movie is easily the worst. The character work is awkward and it runs through all the slasher movie clichés (face in the window, innocuous scare which might not be so innocuous, unrelated opening murder, you get the idea). There are a lot of terms for this particular kind of opening, and this one doesn’t do it much better than most (although Ti West is in the first act and he made House of the Devil, so he’s cool with me).

But once the first crossbow bolt is fired and the shit starts to hit the fan, the movie drops a lot of its unnecessary baggage and really picks up. While crossbows, melee weapons (axes and machetes mostly) and animal masks aren’t the most unique slasher villains ever, they get the job done reasonably well and the masks never cease to be at least mildly off putting, if not outright creepy.

What I think gets the movie most of it’s energy is how creative and weird it is. The kills are across the board inventive and well staged on both sides, and the pitch dark humor that shows up literally in the first scene is injected throughout both the quiet scenes and more gruesome ones. The film has a lot of fun disguising who the alarmingly competent nominal hero of the piece winds up being, and why they are as competent as they are. This is the first film I’ve seen by director Adam Wingard, but he’s not bad, walking a couple fine lines of humor and horror throughout the film and keeping the action mostly fresh and engaging.

But even all that included, the film is not without issues. While the reasons behind the hero being kickass are interesting, who the villains turn out to be and why is depressingly straightforward. Some of the actors are phoning it in a bit (although given how quickly they start dropping, I think the director was aware of this) and sometimes the more serious attempts at drama can grate with the more darkly humorous segments.

You’re Next is fairly familiar ground to anyone who likes this sort of movie; a slasher movie crossed with a home invasion movie is nothing exceptionally new. But it’s an extremely well done example of this particular well tread ground. It’s creative and exciting and often extremely enjoyable and engaging, especially if you’re into this sort of thing. It’s been an oddly good year for original horror movies (The Purge aside), and You’re Next continues that trend. So call it recommended and I’ll see you next time.

Elessar is a 23 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he was surprised to find out that this movie isn’t a feature length adaptation of the music video for Animal by the Neon Trees.

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