Sunday, September 15, 2013

It Came From The Cineplex: You're Next

You're Next was written by Simon Barrett and directed by Adam Wingard. Barrett also plays one of the Masked Men in the film.

The movie was actually made in 2011, but didn't get a wide U.S. release until August 2013.

At first glance You're Next appears to be a typical Home Invasion Horror film in which an innocent family is brutalized and tortured seemingly at random by masked, faceless psychopaths. Similar in content and tone to When A Stranger Calls, The Strangers and even The Purge. You're Next bucks the trend a bit by featuring heaping helpings of dark humor and a third act plot twist that changes the entire reason for the invasion.


The Plot:
Various members of the wealthy but estranged Davison family gather at their remote summer home for a reunion. During a tense dinner the family is attacked by a group of assailants who are all wearing incongruously cute animal masks.

The Masked Men begin picking off the family members (and their significant others) one by one, occasionally scrawling "You're Next" on the walls in blood.

Unfortunately for the Masked Men they didn't plan on the resourcefulness and survival training of one of the guests.

• You shouldn't have any trouble figuring out who The Final Girl will be. Ten minutes in and I had her pegged as Erin, Crispian's Australian girlfriend.

• Nice to see Barbara Crampton on screen again. Crampton is a fan-favorite scream queen who starred in many horror and sci-fi movies in the 1980s and 1990s, including Re-Animator, Chopping Mall, From Beyond, Puppetmaster, Trancers II, Castle Freak and more.

• Right before the fateful dinner Erin stares at a family photo of the Davisons. The photo is very telling; everyone wears grim expressions and no one's touching one another. In fact Mom & Pop Davison are sitting on the couch with a good three feet between them. I don't know if it was intentional or not, but it's a nice little touch, giving us visual evidence of the family's cold and distant feelings for one another.  

• I really liked the Erin character and loved the twist that she'd been raised in an Australian survivalist compound and knew all sorts of offensive and defensive tactics. For once we get a Final Girl who's every bit as dangerous (if not more so) than the villains. 

• Much of the film's dark humor comes from Erin and the devious traps she sets. Some of them, like the nail-studded boards below the windows, would make Kevin McCallister (of Home Alone fame) proud.

• The film begins as the Masked Men slaughter the Davison's next door neighbors. But why? The Masked Men were hired by brothers Crispian and Felix Davison to kill their parents and siblings so they'd inherit the family fortune. I don't see how killing the neighbors factored into that plan.

Did the Masked Men kill the neighbors for practice? To keep them from snooping? Or did they kill them so it wouldn't look like the Davison's were being specifically targeted, which might arouse suspicion? 

• Shortly before the massacre the neighbor woman fixes herself a drink and plays a CD. Oddly enough she puts the disc in the player upside down (or silver side up). Luckily for her it still manages to play somehow. I suppose she might be playing a disc she burned, but if so there's nothing written on it.

I see this a lot in movies; I think if they actually showed the top of the CD they'd have to pay some licensing fee to the artists, so they're always shown with the artwork side facing down.

• As Mom & Pop Davison pull up to their summer home, there's a very odd, lingering shot of the front of their Jeep, which lovingly displays the logo. Product placement, perhaps?

• I'm not a fan of the whole "Greedy Kids Hire Hitmen To Kill The Parents In Order To Inherit The Family Fortune" plot twist. It was very jarring and seemed to come out of nowhere, like it was shoehorned in at the last minute.

I get that it sets this film apart from all the other Home Invasion Horror films out there, but I think I might have liked it more if it had just turned out to be a bunch of faceless killers who picked a family at random. 

Also if the Masked Men had remained faceless, unknown psychopaths with no motives for their depravity, it would have been infinitely scarier. Are they human or supernatural? Who knows what they're capable of? Having them whip their masks off and reveal that they're just a bunch of normal guys kind of torpedoed any chance for scares.

• Crispian explains to Erin that he gave the Masked Men explicit instructions not to harm her so that she'd survive and be an impartial witness, deflecting suspicion from Felix and him. But Felix's goth girlfriend Zee knows about the plan as welll. Why did they let Zee in on it too? Was she originally supposed to be another witness but discovered the plan and they had to include her?

• I'm glad that the film was rated R, as I'm not a fan of watered-down PG-13 horror movies. That said, for an R rated movie there's very little gore. Sure there are a few slit throats, but for the most part all the violence takes place chastely offscreen.

• At the end of the film all of the Masked Men (as well as Felix and Zee) have been killed by Erin. Her boyfriend Crispian is the only Davison left. He goes into a long, drawn out monologue, explaining his motives to her and urging her to join him. Erin listens to his spiel for a few minutes, then comes to a decision and stabs him in the throat, killing him.

Unfortunately this action turns Erin from a victim into a cold blooded murderer. Everyone else she killed was in self-defense, as she was literally fighting for her very survival. Crispian, although a sick and twisted bastard, was no threat to her. She rage-murdered him just to make a point.

She should have just stabbed him in the leg to incapacitate him until the police came. He'd have then gone to prison for the rest of his life, which would have been a far worse fate. If she'd done that though then the film couldn't have ended with the policeman seeing her stab Crispian and shoot her, thinking she's the killer.

You're Next is a home invasion horror film with a streak of dark humor that takes an unexpected twist that you may or may not like. I give it a B-.

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