Saturday, October 4, 2014

You're Next

  I'd heard mixed reviews about You're Next, so I went in halfheartedly. Those five glowing red stars on the Netflix description kept taunting me. "We think you'll love this." Not that I like to listen to programs and apps telling me what they think I'll like (especially not one that suggests The Thief and the Cobbler based on my interest in Beverly Hills Cop. Go figure.) but it was enough to get me to sit down and watch this one. I can't say I was disappointed, but I was making a mental checklist of things to point out in my review. And for most of the movie, those were all positive mental notes. Good stuff. But things went sideways towards the end.  It's fun to watch horror movies, but somehow it's even more fun picking them apart. I can imagine half of the fun of You're Next is imagining what would've made it even better. Afterall, it's that sort of mental process that allows writers and artists to improve upon what they've seen and read, and produce something even better. You could even say that movies like this inspire better movies in the same vein. Especially seeing as how You're Next was so damn promising.

  It's a home invasion flick first off. That's a touchy sub genre for me because there's two movies that set the bar impossibly high for me, The Strangers and Funny Games. Both truly frightening and chilling. Movies like The Purge, just ended up pissing me off and leaving me annoyed. So You're Next had it's work cut out for it.  Despite the cold open, which was properly creepy, the movie was slow getting started. Which was somewhat of an issue because we don't end up giving a shit about any of these characters. At least not right away. That's the trick though isn't it? Making us care before you start killing off characters. Because if you don't care, there's no emotional impact and then the movie ends up being nothing more than a slaughter reel. Which there is totally a time and place for, but it's not in a movie that spends so much time introducing you to the victims-to-be.  Alas... it's something of a family reunion in a big fancy isolated house up in a wooded area somewhere, but the festivities are cut short when a cadre of killers start picking off the family one member at a time.

  The heroine edges out fairly quick with no real set up. She just happens to be really good at survival stuff. I think there was a small throwaway line about her dad being a survival nut? Doesn't matter. Her kick ass attitude and drive to stay alive made her likeable, everyone else? Not so much. This was not a likeable family. They bickered a lot, and when the killing started... they bickered even more. These aren't really people who you'd want to see survive. At least not beyond their basic function as innocent victims vs. the mysterious murderers. Had they truly banded together to survive, and ended up putting aside their crap issues in the process, this movie would've been a bajillion times better. You would've cared about these people! We would've been emotionally invested! Which is never a bad thing.  But as is, you clearly can see that the lead heroine is "probably" going to outlive everyone else.

  Trying desperately to avoid spoilers here. Anyways, my huge issue with the movie is when they start revealing things. The reason behind these home invaders killing off this family? Such a lame and cliche reason. I called it right away. The moment said "Why are they targeting our family?" I called it. Out loud. Turns out I was right. Which was so disappointing. There's something to be said for ambiguity in a horror movie. We don't need to know everything. Sometimes not knowing is scarier. The Strangers is a perfect example of this. That movie gave you no real answers to why the bad guys were terrorizing this innocent couple. It was just an exercise in sheer dread and tension. It worked so damn well too. They put a motive behind the killing in You're Next, and that took the wind out of it's sails. Suddenly, it didn't seem as scary anymore.

  Which isn't saying all that much about this movie because when it's scary... it's really freaking scary. It doesn't rely on jump scares. It's wise like that. It has a few, but it doesn't make them it's bread and butter. There's a tense methodical pacing to the killings in the movie. It's frightening and unnerving. The movie also gets really creative with the deaths which is always fun. Tons of traps and the like. Not to mention the visuals of the killers with their innocent looking animal masks is downright creepy. Kudos to the filmmakers for establishing the two strong basics. A likeable heroine and creepy villains. For the most part, those two basics are used to great effect. I enjoyed myself throughout the movie and even after a few shitty twists towards the end, I was with the movie all the way.

  I think there's easily more to talk about in the "what they should've done" category than anything else. You're Next is serviceable, and a good go-to example on how to craft some decent scares... but it's little else. It's far from the "savvy" and "savage" film it was touted to be. Having said that, it's still a good movie and if you got 90 minutes to burn, there's no reason why you couldn't do so watching this movie. I can't wholeheartedly recommend it, but I can't urge you to stay away either. Earlier this year, I bashed The Purge for being so mediocre and falling into that shitty purgatory area where I can't really hate it and I can't like it either. Despite my apparent indifference, You're Next is not like that. What it does well, it does really really damn well. I just have serious personal gripes with the story, and everyone should take issue with the poorly written characters. That shit is just annoying.

  On the whole, You're Next isn't bad. I'd even go so far to say it's good. But it's better if you know what you're getting into before you watch it. I had fun, even if that fun was hampered eventually. Still, an admirable effort from director Adam Wingard who is probably most notable for his horror anthology movie, V/H/S and it's even better sequel. (Two movies which I really liked, a lot.) Anyway, I wish I had a more definitive opinion about You're Next. It's good... but not great. That's about the long and short of it.

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