Sunday, August 25, 2013

Review: You're Next

Image courtesy of Lionsgate.
When I saw Adam Wingard's 2011 horror film, "A Horrible Way to Die," I thought the picture was far from perfect, but that the director held some promise and could likely become an exciting new voice in the horror genre. I've now seen his follow up, "You're Next," and I feel like I'm still waiting.

His latest film is undoubtedly more high energy than his previous work and it has a fair amount of chutzpah. But it's also imperfect, occasionally derivative and a little mean spirited.

Thematically, you might think you're on board for something unique as the picture opens. A rich clan of siblings - without a doubt, a group of one percenters - gather for a weekend retreat at a secluded home to celebrate their parents' wedding anniversary. One of the brothers, Crispian (AJ Bowen), has brought along his Aussie girlfriend, Erin (Sharni Vinson), who becomes the picture's heroine.

The cast features a Who's Who of indie horror talent and mumblecore regulars, including Ti West ("The House of the Devil"), Joe Swanberg ("Drinking Buddies"), Amy Seimetz ("Silver Bullets"), Barbara Crampton ("Re-Animator") and Larry Fessenden ("Wendigo").

As the group sits down to dinner, a group of three men wearing creepy animal masks launch a brutal attack on the house, using bows and arrows, hatchets, axes, machetes and all other manner of blunt instrument.

As the wealthy family members get picked off in increasingly gruesome ways - including a barb wire to the neck, a machete to the head, an arrow to the forehead and an axe to the skull, Erin unveils a secret... that I won't divulge. Let's just say the killers may have picked the wrong house.

And, of course, there are a few major plot twists - aside from Erin's - as the movie nears its climax, but they are not as revelatory as the filmmakers appear to think.

"You're Next" is slightly better than your average slasher film, but it's not going to revolutionize the genre as some critics appear to believe it will. It's no "Scream" and it's no "Cabin in the Woods." It's greatest strength is that it gives audiences a final girl - and shit kicker - for whom we can truly cheer.

On the other hand, the film's execution is pretty by the numbers. It's gruesome and not just in the typical fashion of films of this kind. The murders are grotesque and a bit crueler than you'd typically expect and, seemingly, for no other reason than Wingard and company had extra funds to spend on buckets of gore.

Horror fans could do worse than "You're Next," but they could also certainly do better.

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