Wednesday, August 28, 2013

“You’re Next” – Promise?

Apparently, there is a whole genre of movie called “home-invasion horror.” I had no idea this was a real thing until I read some of the marketing materials for You’re Next. Incidentally, The Purge, a movie that released just a couple of months ago, is also classified as home-invasion horror, though I don’t remember anything marketing it as more than just horror. I feel like this sub-genre was made up as a marketing ploy specifically to target a certain audience, but I have no idea who that audience is. It’s hard to believe there are people out there who get excited about watching movies where deranged killers break into people’s homes, but then there are people who watched The Human Centipede on purpose. And, can’t you see this kind of marketing run amok to the point where every movie is its own sub-sub-genre? Transformers could be classified as “robotic-alien-invasion sci-fi-fantasy-action-thriller.” The Replacements could be in the “football-work-stoppage romantic-comedy” section. Bridesmaids would live in “shitty movies that aren’t funny in any way and make you want to rip your own fingernails off.” Well, maybe that last one wouldn’t be a very good marketing angle, but my point is that when a movie is being marketed using a specific sub-genre, that’s Red Flag Number One.

Red Flag Number Two is the opening scene of the film. You hear a couple having sex and see their feet through a cracked doorway. The camera cuts to a more revealing shot of a man hammering away on top of a bare-breasted young woman and she has the most disinterested look on her face you could possibly imagine. For a moment, I wasn’t sure she even knew she was in a sex scene (or a movie for that matter) until the man utters something that changes her expression from disinterest to mild disgust. The two of them are murdered a few minutes later, but this opening sequence establishes the tone of the film. If the woman can’t be bothered to even pretend to be interested in the scene, why would the audience be interested in the movie? For that matter, what was the director doing during this scene? Did he direct her to be that way on purpose or he was just as disinterested in the film as she was? Either way, it’s unintentional foreshadowing that sets the tone for the entire film. The movie tries to establish a tone of tension by showing us the words “You’re Next” scrawled in blood on a glass door of victims’ house, but it’s already too late for that.

The rest of the film revolves around a family reunion in a house nearby the location of the first two murders. The patriarch is retiring, has lots of money, and is throwing a party for himself. The group consists of mom (Aubrey) and dad (Paul), their four adult children – Crispian, Drake, Felix, and Aimee, and their children’s significant others – Erin, Kelly, Zee, and Tariq, respectively. Since the movie is only 95 minutes, it’s not long before the killers show up wearing plastic animal masks and start murdering the group, one-by-one. After a couple of deaths, we soon learn that Erin grew up in a survivalist camp in Australia and is going to be the heroine of this film. In what is the only non-cliché of this entire movie, Erin takes a rule learned from Zombieland – the Double-Tap – and multiplies it by roughly infinity. Every time she takes on a killer, she makes sure that guy is not going to get up again, usually by turning their heads into mashed potatoes or the knife version of a pin cushion. While it’s refreshing to see a potential victim not act like the dumbest person on the planet, it leads to an audience reaction that shouldn’t happen during a horror flick – laughter.

It’s really not a good sign when the audience is laughing throughout a movie billed as horror, but that’s exactly what happened. After the tone set by the opening sequence, it’s hard to predict how an audience will react, but I couldn’t have predicted comedy. Every death seemed more like an attempt at goofiness (multiple knives to the chest and person still won’t go down; axe to the head while standing on person’s neck, blender to the brain, to name three) than building terror and watching the characters act like every scary-movie character before them didn’t help. I’d like to believe this was an attempt at poking fun at the horror genre – excuse me, home-invasion horror genre – but this was not Scream or a Wayans movie.

You’re Next felt like it was trying to be serious, while inadvertently tripping over itself in slapstick fashion. Between terrible acting, bad dialogue, lame one-liners, and an almost non-existent plot, the movie felt like an example of how not to craft a film. They even manage to negate the opening scene murders once the motivation is revealed, validating the initial woman’s disinterest as appropriate. As the movie slogged through the killings, all I could think after each death was “can I be next?”

Rating: Ask for all of your money back. You should never pay for unintentional comedy.

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