Movie Review ~ You’re Next

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The Facts:

Synopsis: When the Davison family comes under attack during their wedding anniversary getaway, the gang of mysterious killers soon learns that one of victims harbors a secret talent for fighting back.

Stars: Sharni Vinson, AJ Bowen, Nick Tucci, Wendy Glenn, Joe Swanberg, Rob Moran, Barbara Crampton, Maragaret Laney, Amy Seimetz, Ti West, Larry Fessenden, Lane Hughes, L.C. Holt, Simon Barrett, Calvin Reeder

Director: Adam Wingard

Rated: R

Running Length: 96 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (6.5/10)

Review: Oh I really wanted to like this movie a lot more.  Believe me.  We all know how the ever-lovin’ hype-machine can set the bar so high that not even an Olympic long jump champion could fly over it.  Unfortunately that’s what happened with my viewing of You’re Next, a film I probably would have rated higher had I not gone into it having read so many articles claiming it’s the Next Big Thing in horror.

Completed in 2011 but getting its debut now, you’d think that the movie had some sort of black mark with its overly long time on the shelf.  Well, it turns out that it was actually a smart move to hold the film back until now because back in 2011 audiences were still saturated with slasher films of decreasing quality and increasing stupidity.  Really starting with 2012’s Cabin in the Woods, the horror genre has undergone a slight maturity because viewers are demanding something a little bit more than just gobs of blood and guts.

Though the 2013 remake of Evil Dead and May’s The Purge did respectable business there wasn’t anything spectacular on the horror front until July’s The Conjuring.  Arguably one of the best horror films of the last decade, the haunted house fright flick laid its claim to scariest film of the year and no matter how good You’re Next was it was always going to have to settle for at least second place.

Yet You’re Next and The Conjuring couldn’t be more different in their methods.  Where The Conjuring earned its R rating without any blood, foul language, or nudity, You’re Next gleefully bathes in the sinewy awfulness of its R by serving up death at its most painful.  Stabbings, bashings, and more throat slashing than I could stomach (slit throats have always spooked me), and one truly original death by household appliance are all on display…You’re Next doesn’t let anyone die easily.

All this would be an hour and a half of twisted terror…had it not been for the fact that the movie is nearly equal parts black comedy as it is gory horror.  Comedy isn’t anywhere in the preview for the film and I have to say I was disappointed in how much the movie struggled with its teeter-totter balancing act between laughs and screams.  That’s not to say the movie can’t have its cake and chop it to bits too…but the comedy element was treated in the marketing materials like a dirty secret.  Had the movie marketed its winking aspirations to be a next level Scream, I think I would have been more prepared for the final product.

As it is, you never really know if director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett are really accomplishing what they set out to do.  Are we supposed to be siding with the various members of an average family as they battle vicious masked killers that come a-callin’ just as they are sitting down for an anniversary dinner?  Or are we meant to root for the killers to snuff out several family members with personalities no one will miss.  Though the bitter comedy bits do land successfully, they feel out of place with the rest of the slicing and dicing.

Also out of place is a lumpy stew of actors cast in roles that they don’t seem to fully be right for.  Though 80’s scream queen Barbara Crampton looks great for her age, I never once bought that she was the mother of these adult kids…but it’s not like Crampton goes to great acting lengths to do her character any favors either.  It’s fun to see various members of the next wave of horror directors pop up in bit parts with The Innkeepers director Ti West getting right to the, um, point of his cameo.

It’s the one outsider (of the family and the creative collective that sit in front of and behind the camera) that makes the most impact.  Australian Sharni Vinson (Bait) bides her time on the sidelines until she’s called up to the plate as a survivalist that gives the killers a taste of their own medicine.  Though the film creaks as it winds down with several interesting twists that surround a Home Alone-type booby trap ending, Vinson is an appealing presence throughout.

I think I’d like You’re Next more on a second viewing and if I’m being honest I liked the film more as I let it sink in.  Maybe it’s not the movie I wanted it to be but there’s more than a dose of cleverness going on here and at least it’s not another endless sequel made as a quick cash grab for its studio.  It’s probably more effective to be seen in the security of your own home…though you’ll probably check that the doors and windows are locked one extra time before you turn out the light.

The Silver Bullet ~ You’re Next

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Synopsis: When the Davison family comes under attack during their wedding anniversary getaway, the gang of mysterious killers soon learns that one of victims harbors a secret talent for fighting back.

Release Date: August 23, 2013 

Thoughts: If the advance buzz is to be believed, You’re Next is one damn good horror film.  Now, I always try to take that kind of praise with a grain of salt because one person’s Cabin in the Woods could be another person’s The Apparition.  Still, the slick and scary new trailer for the horror film releasing this August gave me more than a few chills.  The home invasion genre has been done well recently (2008’s The Strangers) but it seems there’s more terror to mine from a fear we all have about our general safety while at home.  Director Wingard and several of the cast/crew were also involved with the underrated gore-fest V/H/S in 2012 and if that film is any indication, You’re Next will be a twisted throat-grabber aimed to produce maximum screams.

31 Days to Scare ~ Bait 3D

The Facts:

Synopsis: A freak tsunami traps shoppers at a coastal Australian supermarket inside the building – along with two great white sharks

Stars: Xavier Samuel, Chris Betts, Sharni Vinson, Julian McMahon, Phoebe Tonkin

Director: Kimble Rendall

Rated: R

Running Length: 91 minutes

TMMM Score: (5/10)

Review:  It’s no secret to family, friends, or random strangers that my favorite movie is JAWS.  There’s something about that film that has always spoken to me, my fascination with the ocean, and my love of sharks.  It helps that it’s a damn fine film with assured direction, brilliant performances, that killer score, and one menacing shark.  All in all…perfection in my book.

Ever since JAWS was released I’ve always been a sucker for any movie with an underwater shark (or creature) chowing down on any kind of stock character the movie could throw at us.  I’ve watched the television movies, read the knock-off books, been loyal to Shark Week through all the iterations of Air Jaws, and even shelled out my sheckles for Shark Night 3D which stunk worse than a chum bucket left out in the heat.

So you can understand why I approached Bait with some trepidation. Though I was pleasantly impressed with the restrained shark thriller The Reef, it was clear that Bait was going to be more of the cheap scare variety so I could only hope that it at least did its business with panache.  The resulting film is a good news/bad news sorta situation.

The good news is that some of the shark effects look quite good.  The bad news is that for every good shark CGI effect there are five more that look like a bad Sega game from 1989.  In a perfect world, the sharks would still be built for practical use to avoid the cartoon-y look they almost always have in cinema.  To be fair, even films with bigger budgets like Deep Blue Sea had trouble making their sharks look convincing…though to its credit Deep Blue Sea used a lot of robot sharks that looked real.

More good news is that Bait places its sharks and their prey in an unusual setting which always keeps things interesting when you are dealing with weak effects and weaker acting.  Though the supermarket that is flooded by a tsunami and brings with it two hungry sharks is well set-up, it can’t escape looking like it was built in a large tank of water.  Clearly, the set was at the mercy of the elements that had to support large amounts of water and debris.

The better setting is an underground parking garage that sets the scene for some of the better scares and had me getting my feet up onto the couch and off the floor more than once.  While two lovebirds are stranded underwater in their car, another is trying to get to safety…and all three have to contend with a shark that knows they’re there and is figuring out how to get to them.  Director Rendall does his best work here by finding some clever means of escape for the teens.

In movies like this, if you’re going to insist on having several parallel storylines you must MUST make a case for it.  In Bait, there are about five subplots going on that just never catch on.  There’s a muddled twist about a store robbery gone awry, a love triangle, a father-daughter conflict…it’s just all too much to be supported on such flimsy, floating ground.

It doesn’t help that the acting is subpar to say the least.  While our leading man (Samuel) fares best with his haunted past angle, better known actor McMahon (Nip/Tuck) is totally out to sea with a half-baked character that he adds no life to.  The women, usually the surefire dodos in horror films, are actually given their due here with help from Tonkin and Vinson who don’t just scream and yell and wait to get eaten.

It’s interesting to note that Bait was released in its native Australia in 3D.  It had a small run in the US utilizing the same technology and while I saw the 2D version I couldn’t see many places were the 3D would have added much in the way of depth or scares.  In the long line of shark films Bait may have some teeth to it but it still can’t hold a candle to its bigger budgeted sister films that inspired it.  I wouldn’t put it in the same universe as JAWS but it’s better than the usual direct-to-video crap that drifts out of tinsel town every few years.