Wednesday, January 22, 2014

You're Next (2011)

You're Next categorizes itself as a home invasion thriller, and there have been no shortage of home invasion thrillers made over the years. And this one had been getting some pretty good reviews from what I heard, so when I started watching it, my mind immediately went to wondering how this one would do things differently and push itself ahead of the pack. It doesn't screw with the formula too much - so it's not an out-of-the-box experience like, say, The Cabin in the Woods (for better or worse) - but it does offer enough novelty to feel like a fresh perspective on a classic horror setup, and it does what it does well, which is to say that it's a good, fun horror movie watching experience.

Of course, I can't say too much about what this movie does to make it exciting without giving away some of the mystery, so if you don't want to be spoiled, you're better off watching it before reading the rest of this review. It's a home invasion thriller - that's probably as much information as you need to determine whether or not you think it's worth watching. It's also very much in the classic slasher vein, but with a more modern and mature angle that's less supernatural killers and teen hijinks, and more in tune with recent "masked killers" movies like The Strangers. On that note, I found the animal masks utilized by the killers in this movie to be very creepily effective, and when they eventually unmask and reveal their (not-so-significant) identities and personalities later on, I thought that was a nice and satisfying twist on the usual perspective for a movie like this one.

Other things that made this movie stand out for me was the way in which the usual conceit got flipped around in the second half where the so-called "final girl" was not merely scrambling for dear life, but actually putting pressure on the killers, to the point where you almost (almost) lose some of your sympathy for her. The style of the film was also very effective in creating a tense atmosphere with intimidating villains - although my biggest complaint against the movie is for the excessive and unnecessary use of the shaky cam technique. Another thing I liked was the approach towards humor taken by this film. In some places it's being described as a comedy. While there is some obvious humor in the movie, I think that calling it a "comedy" is a stretch - as explained by the filmmakers in the "making of" featurette, there are no jokes in the movie, it doesn't wink at the audience - but it has more of a situational humor that's entirely straight-faced, which is honestly the kind of humor I can appreciate the most.

One of the more conventional aspects that nevertheless worked well was the mystery part of the home invasion. It starts as a typical dysfunctional family reunion on the eve of the household head's wedding anniversary, before erupting into a terrifying home invasion nightmare. Of course, with all the bad blood between the family members, and the question of big money inheritance hanging in the air, you as a member of the audience start wondering who's responsible. Which is good, because it gets your brain working, and even if you have a pretty good idea which direction it's headed, the smaller details are not too obvious, and when you get there, it's treated very matter-of-factly, in a way that avoids a lot of cliches.

If you look at critical reactions to You're Next, now that it's been out and around and seen by many people, I think a lot of people are criticizing it for not living up to a certain level of hype that it had previously (and with warrant) attained. It may not be a cinematic masterpiece or the best horror movie you've ever seen, but I think it's very good, and I have much respect for the approach taken with it, which is a nice mixture of old and new: things that are familiar (and much loved), and things that feel fresh and original (without the underlying current of contempt for its viewers that The Cabin in the Woods hinted at :p). It's gripping and intense, smart and violent, and I think you'll have a lot of fun watching it, if this is the kind of movie you dig.

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