Monday, August 25, 2014

Impulse Explorations: YOU'RE NEXT (2011)

 After years of peeking into the more highly spotlighted corners of the horror film universities, seeking new voices who would carry on the legacy of a great few others, I can say with great confidence that the works of Adam Wingard tend to leave me dry. If he were a filmmaker who's voice wished to usher in a new era of slasher thrills with a new twist, it could certainly do with a little more sense of gravity than a cursory love of an idea.As it is, You're Next plays a lot like a junior college final with cinema grade visuals.

Driving into the Missouri mountains to visit his well-off parents and family, Crispian (A.J. Bowen), along with his former student-turned girlfriend, Erin (Shami Vinson) unwittingly arrive as bloody murder hits the vicinity. Isolated from much of civilization, the immediately dysfunctional gathering is quietly being stalked by a group of masked killers hard set on killing everyone in attendance. But upon the moment that the party has turned fight for survival, it become clear that there is more than meets the eye with these armed fiends(and that Erin is no ordinary fiance). Attempting to subvert the "home invasion" subgenre ala The Strangers, or even Inside, Wingard's You're Next, flounders about, never finding itself out of first gear.

The film plays out like the blueprint for a family drama satire that never figures out how to make the humor sing. One can witness the intent, but the script by Simon Barett, never sees a way to play on the dynamics between Crispian's family members as his partner haplessly witnesses. So it eventually gives up, and expects the audience to just go with the blood as if it were the only attraction worth attention. There is a definite love for the visceral on display. But without the characters complimenting the premise, it all feels more like an exercise in sadism where it could have easily been blackly comic. Fellow genre cineastes, Joe Swanberg, and Ti West, do what they can, hamming it up in supporting roles that border on thud-inducing. Not to mention Upstream Color's Amy Seimetz, and  horror veteran, Barbara Crampton come off a little undercooked. We have a potential for ensemble that is never milked to any satisfying effect. Again, we get the idea of a film, but aside from the expected gore, there's little else holding matters together.

Making matters even more bland, as good as Vinson is here, there's never any doubt as to how everything is going to play out. It also plays heavily into an almost survivalist fetishism that feels like the main reason for the film's existence. As the killers close in on the remaining family members in the estate, all we get are the expected knock down drag-outs, and  Home Alone-esque setups.While it could make for an interesting action character, it's hardly a source of depth for what could have been much more. Which again plays into the films of Wingard, who seems to carry some very rudimentary ideas for gender roles. There is an almost frat boy worldview being conveyed that never allows the characters to forge anywhere beyond simple, and often distasteful types. While that might make for definable heroes and cannon fodder, it does very little to make them compelling. When sarcastic horror comedies like the original April Fool's Day(1986), is a better example of this kind of story, it's time to worry.

Considering the decades-plus of cinematic bloodletting, one would think that someone would be informed that we would need more than this. Oh, we do, Wingard. We really do.

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