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Wednesday, 22 January 2014

You're Next: The Next Big Slasher?

Movie recommendations are a tricky business; you're always destined for either cinematic greatness and a safe spot on your favourites list or crushing disappointment and a lingering resentment of the recommender for wasting an evening of your life and a nice five pound bottle of plonk.

The whole thing just compounds itself when Cocaine Friday is on the line.
 It was my driving instructor of all people who directed me to watch You're Next, the 2011 home invasion slasher that finally got a release late in 2013, and having heard good things from other sources as well I was quite hopeful for this one. The home invasion sub-genre has seen a resurgence in resent years, something I'm sure someone much smarter than I could use to glean a mystical insight into society, but as with any rise in popularity the quality of the large majority of export most assuredly goes down. The last good one I saw was the gruesome French nightmare fuel that is Inside over a year ago, and even that had its fair share of flaws.

If you're going to perform a caesarian, you might as well do it correctly.
The problem is that the genre has been cut a little too carefully from the cloth during its conception, making it exceptionally difficult to create a film that feels original and engaging without having to resort to a overly gruesome gimmick (see above) to keep the audience interested. And if there has ever been a better example of the sample that all of the others could be held up against to see if they matched the carpet (once you have an analogy, always run with it no matter what), then You're Next is it. Don't get excited folks, that's not as much of a compliment as it sounds.

You can wipe that smug grin off your face for a start.
Let's start with the plot. The film opens with two people having un-fulfilling sex so, yeah, they're going to die; and they do. You can tell the body count is going to be pretty high when the movie is cool with killing off two inconsequential characters just to set up the title sequence. We cut to a family gathering together at the rich parent's mansion for their 30th anniversary; none of them get on and all of the characters are either boring, stupid, a hapless cliché or an unmitigated bastard. The last of those is the proud domain of this smarmy chucklefuck:

Standing next to a man with a tumour on his shoulded shaped like a chubby, bearded head.
Joe Swanberg is terrible. He was bad enough in V/H/S but he can be proud in the knowledge that his acting ability has reached a new low with this film. Granted, half of the issue is with the script, which calls for his character to be an unnecessarily shitty anal prolapse of dickishness (oo, burn) for absolutely no reason even after the danger of the family's situation has become glaringly apparent and he gets shot in the back by a crossbow, but his facial expression doesn't change for the whole movie. He's just...so bad. His acting is endemic of the quality of the majority of the rest of the cast (save for the lead, whom we'll get to in a moment) who are equally as awful; most of the supporting cast are bland, formless cannon fodder and the mother in particular is flat, uninteresting and goes from absolutely chill to thinking the world is going to explode and back again faster than a schizophrenic chugging cough syrup while on uppers.

"Is that a fly? Oh my god, it's a dragon! I'm going to go to bed now."
Sure, it turns out she was right to be wary, but it's not a sign of good writing if a character in a horror film, the genre that defined the brainless fool walking into the warm arms of brutal decapitation (there's plenty of them in this film too), if one of the characters comes across as too anxious. I guess we can count ourselves lucky that the exposition only lasts an agonising 25 minutes before the action starts, at which point all plot is thrown out of the window and we get treated to an hour of people dying. There's a twist in there somewhere, but it's unoriginal, trite and doesn't actually serve to change the playing field in any way; it's still people trying to kill other people just now two of the killers are family members. Oops. Spoiler?

A completely unrelated image of a character in this film.
The shit goes down when, during dinner one night, the family are attacked by unknown assailants with crossbows and animal masks. Although I've just slated the movie for it's lack of coherent plot, the moment it strips away all of it's badly executed exposition is the moment it starts to get good, opting instead for gore, and lots of it. The visual effects are impressive and are evidently where the entirety of the film's budget was spent, the producer opting to pay the writers instead with gruel and squirrel paws.

Who needs plot and characterisation when blenders are powerful enough to scramble skulls?
You're Next's only positive feature is that it's pretty. The camera is generally framed nicely, the gore is satisfying enough to keep your interest and the main character, Erin, is suitably attractive. Obviously what most of the people who have praised this movie for is Erin; she breaks the genre stereotype of helplessly useless cabbages that bleed and manages to do a pretty neat job at holding off the intruders single handedly, but not in any way that wasn't already done better by The Hills Have Eyes. Although it's nice to see a resourceful character (and a woman at that; a shocking deconstruction of gende- *snore*) in a horror for once, all the makers have managed to do here is turn their movie into even more of a clichéd joke than it already is. Stood next to someone with the basic forethought to maybe lock the doors so evil axe murderers can't get in, the rest of the cast descend from annoying genre trope to slobbering morons. It even rubs off on the killers, who are the least original murderers since the exact same murderers in the trampolining dysentery sufferer that was The Strangers, who come across as less scary and more wildly incompetent, crossbow-happy opportunists once they manage to be held back by some bits of wood with nails in them.

Doesn't make it any less painful-looking, mind.
Shall we wrap this up, then? The acting is abysmal, the storyline and exposition are bare at best (consider that a blessing or a curse as you may), the twist is predictably dull and the villains have neither the originality nor the over-the-top craziness to be interesting at all. Although there's an attempt at comedy under all of the awful dialogue, it just isn't funny at all. The good points boil entirely down to the shiny things they dangle in front of your face: satisfying gore, a pretty, if bland, setting and an attractive, unoriginally-original lead. Essentially, You're Next is the perfect template for an absolutely mediocre slasher. We're done here.

Overall Ben Equivalence Rating

Sitting in On a Hollywood Production Meeting - 
"Hey, how about we do something original and unexpected?"
"Or we could make exactly the same thing as always and pretend it's new and original."
"That works too."
*A cocaine and money orgy ensues*

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