Friday, October 03, 2014

30 Days of Nightmares #3: YOU'RE NEXT (2013)

The Story: A family reunion is interrupted by a brutal home invasion. 

Expectations: This is probably the 2013 film that I had heard the most about from fellow horror fans (at least, L.A. horror fans).  That's not to say it was the most successful horror film of the year.  YOU'RE NEXT made about $18 mil at the box office, which is not bad for an indie horror film but it's not the sleeper hit everyone seems to have been expecting.  On opening weekend, several L.A. horror fans pleaded the film's case: "I know the posters and previews make it look like a simple slasher movie, but it's better than that... really."  Still, many people couldn't look past the apparent similarities to FUNNY GAMES, THE STRANGERS, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, etc.

I didn't really get interested until I read an L.A. Times article entitled "YOU'RE NEXT upends the horror genre."  This made me wonder if I was overlooking a milestone event.  It quoted director Adam Wingard as follows: "We came to realize that the best way to deconstruct horror nowadays is just to make a really great horror movie.  You don't have to sell the reference thing or be that clever.  Recognizing all the horror tropes and playing off of audience expectations is kind of the new deconstruction."

To me, this sounds brilliant in its simplicity.  Filmmakers should stop thinking that they can outsmart  or reinvent the horror genre, and simply work on surprising the audience and having fun with the formulas.  I agree with Wingard: That's what great genre filmmaking has always done!  I admit I was lukewarm about the director's previous horror film, A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE, but nevertheless hopeful about his new one.... especially since he was aided by a few noteworthy indie filmmakers on the set: Joe Swanberg, Ti West and Larry Fassenden all make appearances in the film.

Reaction: Frankly, I was a bit annoyed by the first half of this movie. I don't much like the siege movie scenario where everyone starts bickering in the midst of some chaotic attack (although Swanberg and A.J. Bowen do some good bickering).  It annoys me even more when characters are constantly doing stupid things like splitting up for no good reason, standing in front of open windows and running out into the woods when they know there's a killer with a crossbow out there.  The film didn't become interesting to me until I realized that the filmmaker was trying to make these characters look stupid, in order to distinguish the Final Girl.

Once it becomes clear that Bowen's girlfriend (Sharni Vinson), an intended victim, is actually a trained survivalist with a talent for killing people with household items, the film gets smart.  In slasher movies, the Final Girl is always more aware than her peers, but in this case she's a bonafide badass who has has studied the art of retaliation from the parents in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and HOME ALONE's Macauley Culkin.  Also, from this point forward, the killers are no longer masked boogeyman... they're real, vulnerable people playing the game of survival.  In short: The second half of this film is--at least for jaded horror fans--genuinely fun.

Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: The moment that sticks with me the most is the multiple screwdriver murder.... not because of the violence or the gore, but because of the interaction between killer and victim.  This scene demonstrates the cruel and comic absurdity of real-life violence. 

1 comment:

  1. I was pleasantly surprised with this one. Watched it with my daughter and she had a good time with it, too.