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You're Next

I think I may need to write this on this one: THERE ARE SPOILERS. If you don't want the movie "ruined" for you, don't read this blog until AFTER you see the movie.

The sad thing about having seen as many movies as I have is that there are very few surprises left for me in horror.

Going into You're Next I had this thought bouncing around in my head: "Another entry in the 'masked killer home-invasion' genre, oh goodie..." and when the movie ended, I felt exactly the same. So, expectations met, I guess.

The gist of this movie can be gathered from the genre description - there's really no more to it.

The overall look and feel is very 70's-ish with an amazing, Shining-esque soundtrack that may have been my favorite part of the movie. Impressively, the dated look isn't a low budget look - which is shocking considering they had about $1million to work with (a mere pittance by Hollywood standards). This puts the set design and tone of the movie on par with other recent horror homages like House of The Devil.

There is also some of Funny Games in there - the opening scenes have the same peaceful meditative tone accompanying similar perfect, upper-middle class family images. There are many "close calls" (almost comical - where a victim goes out one door and a killer goes in another) that are supposed to be frightening but - don't have any real tension around them.

Dear lord, the dialog is terrible.
I didn't want to think it was because the actors are "low-rent", independent actors giving half-assed performances, but it turns out a handful of the cast are part of some bullshit "acting movement" in which script-less naturalism is embraced.

What a bunch of lazy assholes. You want to make a movie, but you don't want to write it? This isn't clever or artistic, it's self-indulgent. This self-indulgent crap began in the early 1990's with Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino ultimately to blame for the whole mess.

Flash back to 1992 when Tarantino gave us Reservoir Dogs, a low-budget heist movie littered with famous actors, stumbling through partially penned conversations, seemingly guided by each of their inner teenagers. The plot is completely secondary to the inane jabbering throughout the film.

Then, flash forward to 1994 when Kevin Smith unleashed Clerks on the world. What he really gave us was a refinement of Tarantino's rambling dialog style. Tarantino gave us actors making shit up. Smith gave us unknown actors playing real people having real (sometimes excruciatingly awkward or boring) conversations.

Love him or not, you cannot deny that Clerks is a perfectly faked version of reality. So perfect, in fact, that many of the generation after mine cannot separate his type of fiction from reality. I think of Clerks as the bridge between the mocumentaries of the film world and reality tv (just emerging at the time Clerks came out).

Were it not for these early instances of improvisational faux realism, where an actor's "authentic" interpretation of their character's situations is the focal point of the movie, we wouldn't have crappy acting like we do in You're Next.

Whew. End tangent.

Even looking beyond that atrocious dialog, the movie is very uneven. It's like they finished writing it, but no one read through the script to make sure everything made sense. The rampant, gut-kicking terror of a home-invasion movie is broken (in the end) by Dead Alive style deaths.

Example: death by blender to the head. First she smashes the blender over his head. Then she jams the blades into his skull. Then she plugs in the blender and turns it on.  This is so utterly ridiculous and doesn't fit the tone of the rest of the movie. Sure, its very "fun" and "over the top" and "Evil Dead-ish" but, it completely breaks any tension they had managed to build up to this point.

The inconsistency is jarring and unnecessary.

There was also no commitment to a storyline: are these motiveless killers? Are they serial murderers? Am I supposed to follow the story "clues" to figure out the killer's motives?
  • The father is a "defense contractor", there's definitely folks out there who may want to kill him.
  • There's some secret about why the family hasn't gotten together in a long time (Maybe it's the defense contractor thing. Maybe dad's a rapist or a drunken wife beater.) 
  • Mom is "on medication". Is she crazy? Is she trying to forget how terrible her husband is?
  • Scratch all that! Another sibling has a documentary filmmaker boyfriend with an Islamic sounding name. Must be him. Right? All comes back to the defense contractor thing.
  • We're supposed to believe that the killers KNEW the family would be there and waited this whole time for them? Wait. It's a clue! One of the family members must be "in on it."
  • Crispian's obviously poor girlfriend is really obsessed with the fact that the family has money. Maybe she's in on it.
  • WAIT! The reversal! Crispian clearly has issues with his family. He goes outside without being attacked. Is he working with the killers? Did he hire them to murder his shitty family?
  • Drake calls Felix a "low life" (in passing). This is probably the most subtle of all the clues. I figured it was the LEAST likely to be valid. Well-played Adam.
Here's the problem though - how am I supposed to rationalize the first killing (of the neighbor) and the protagonist family? If the "clues" are going to point to a reason for the killings, what's the connection to the first guy? Or am I supposed to believe that their motive is it just that he left his wife for a younger woman and they disproportionately punish "crimes" (sins?).

AND IF NOT, if this is a "motiveless killers" movie, it lacks the oomph that Funny Games packs. Why? There's no "conspiring" with the killers. Keeping us "removed" from the killers fails for either of those plots: it doesn't allow us to join their team and the filmmakers failed to use it to create terror. That's not to say that the murders themselves aren't "heartless" and violent (they are.) But we're never allowed to develop any emotional connection to them. That effectively "flattens" the movie into a pointless visual spectacle.

What's interesting is that this genre grew out of the 70's (Last House on the Left, Straw Dogs) - a direct response to the Vietnam War and our cultural disgust over pointless violence. 

So, wrapping up the tangent: What a rip off! (pardon the pun here) but the motive is money, MONEY?! But wait! Money isn't the "poor girlfriend's" motive, it's the rich, whiny, spoiled sons'. What a bunch of greedy bastards...

Aaaannnnd so, we come around to social commentary here?
  • Money doesn't make up for love in a family
  • Money makes people terrible (they have all this money and they plotted to kill their family and she's got nothing and she's the only one who seems to think it's wrong)
But - you know what? I will give it to them for effectively creating the true return of the Final Girl. Erin is so very Marilyn Burns in her tough determination and Heather Langenkamp in her booby trapping of the whole house. When you look at actress Sharni Vinson's credentials, you wouldn't believe that she could turn in the command performance she delivers in You're Next. She plays doe-eyed to take-command to cold, killer in the 1.5 hour course of the movie. She's pretty much the reason to watch this one.

You can watch the trailer here:

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