Saturday, February 15, 2014

You're Next

NetFlix 4/5
IMDB 6.6/10
My Rating: 7/10

When shy Erin joins her new boyfriend at a family reunion to commemorate his parents' anniversary, the tense gathering is horrifically interrupted by a gang of masked invaders who brutalize the celebrants ... until someone starts fighting back.

MAJOR kudos for this one! I'd read tons of excellent magazine reviews praising this movie up and down, but I kept putting off watching it because the concept just didn't grab me... It sounds bleak, grim, and non-fun, and I was confused by some of the descriptions of this as a comedy-horror. Well, it is, but only in the way that Evil Dead 2 is. What it really is, though, is a marvelous deconstruction and reconstruction of a slasher/giallo film - It's like watching a modern take on Black Christmas as directed by 70's John Carpenter from a script written by Joss Whedon. In other words, really clever and really well put-together. It's also stuffed to the gills with sneaky little homages to classic horror of the past, with wink-winks to Halloween, Black Christmas, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and even Night of the Living Dead.

The basic plot is this - All the scions of a wealthy 1%er family are getting together for their parents' anniversary, for the first time in years. The setting is excellent. It's a HUGE, classic Tudor-style mansion out in the boonies, and the fact that its these folks' vacation house only underscores the class tensions in the film. They're your basic clan of wealthy WASPS, classic Mitt Romney supporters, and the father even works for a defense contractor. Also, they all pretty much hate each other in typical passive-aggressive family ways, and this is their first big chance for everyone to bring home their various SOs to meet each other. This produces some funny scenes as old-money yuppies are forced to mingle with gothoid girlfriends, artsy students, etc.

Artsy boyfriend of family daughter: "I make films. My last film was a documentary that aired at the Underground Film Festival in Toronto."
Fratboy eldest son: "Underground? What, do you mean you ... watch the movies in a cave or something?"

We also get introduced to our heroine Erin, a working class Australian girl in the states for college. Soon enough, however, things turn very dark as the isolated family is besieged by a group of mystery killers in animal masks, who are creepy as fuck:

I loved the direction and style of this movie. It's all very slow, creeping, handheld camera long shots, very much in the style of Halloween or Black Christmas. In fact, the Black Christmas nods are all over it, as it's obvious that at least some of the killers have already gotten into the immense house and it plays much like the sorority house in BC - A huge, mostly empty building where we keep getting killer POV shots as masked figures quietly wander the halls and watch the family cook, chat, and sleep.

Where it really gets going, though, is when the killers start picking off the family and it becomes obvious that heroine Erin is WAY more than anyone expected. Erin isn't just a blue collar toughgirl, she was raised by a family of crazy survivalists in the Australian outback and someone on IMDB accurately described her as Crocodile Dundee's daughter. This is the film at its most Whedon-esque, because the bulk of the film is the crazy ongoing battles between the attacking killers and this absolutely vicious Buffy who keeps turning the tables on them.

It's absolutely loaded with, "Fuck YEAH!" moments for longtime horror fans, as Erin is absolutely NOT the girl who will stick a knife in an attacker and then turn and walk away, assuming he's dead...

Most of the black humor is in the second half and it's very Evil Dead in style. Some people complained that it was a jarring tonal shift, but I found it fun and enjoyable, mostly because if it had just been a straight horror all the way through, it wouldn't have been nearly as unusual or distinctive. We've all seen so many of these "home invasion by masked killers" films now that it's a real joy to see one where you end up not knowing WHO is really the biggest threat... It really does play out like the "Scream" guys accidentally picked on Buffy (or more accurately, Faith) by mistake.