Today’s discussion is about judging a book by its cover or, more aptly, a movie by its poster ... or genre. The poster for "You’re Next," featuring a creepy masked man holding a machete, turned me off. No interest in that movie, even if I’m getting paid to see it. In fact, with very few exceptions, I tend to skip anything in the realm of slasher movies – OK, this one’s categorized as a "horror/thriller" but, come on, the guy’s holding a machete!
Today's discussion is about judging a book by its cover or, more aptly, a movie by its poster ... or genre. The poster for "You're Next," featuring a creepy masked man holding a machete, turned me off. No interest in that movie, even if I'm getting paid to see it. In fact, with very few exceptions, I tend to skip anything in the realm of slasher movies – OK, this one's categorized as a "horror/thriller" but, come on, the guy's holding a machete!
First scene: Middle-aged guy having sex with a much younger woman who seems bored. Yup, that machete gets used pretty early on. Body count within the first couple of minutes: two.
Then some folks pull up at the house next door, then more of them and then even more. It's family reunion time in a big, old isolated setting, and ... wouldn't you know it, the front door is mysteriously open. And there are footsteps heard upstairs. And there are hints that this is a wealthy but very dysfunctional family.
But the real horror film clichés don't begin till the low rumbling sounds that pass for music on the soundtrack start welling up, and there are multiple point-of-view shots making it clear that someone outside is watching the people on the inside.
Let's see, mom is on medication, two of the brothers despise each other, the boyfriend of another sibling gets up from the argument-fueled dinner table, stares out a window, thinks he sees something. ...
Remember when Steve Martin used to get laughs with his gag arrow-through-the-head prop? No laughs here, not when one comes smashing through that window and lands, with remarkable symmetry, dead center in the guy's forehead.
Let the body count continue. This quickly becomes a cruel and violent movie with no apparent purpose in its storytelling. Adding to that, it features an inordinate amount of handheld camera work that focuses on people even when they're standing still, contributing only to a rise in the level of nausea among viewers. Of course, they don't stay still very long, not when the crossbow-fired arrows keep coming. As everyone starts running and ducking, the unpleasantly noisy soundtrack is eventually accompanied by lots of yelling and screaming. Crossbows and machetes are soon joined by a nasty-looking axe, and one kitchen sequence would definitely take first place if there were such things as awards for "death by appliance" scenes.
The film is peopled by a few competent actors, a couple of really bad ones, and one – Australian-accented Sharni Vinson – who's actually quite good and gives us a believable character. And, truth be told, there is some primal pleasure in watching the killers (yup, there's more than one) methodically getting offed by one of the intended victims ... with vigor!
Oddly, at about the one-hour mark of this one-and-a-half-hour movie, something happens. Not anything blatant like a cool plot twist, but possibly something in the writing. And this is where that judging things by covers and posters comes in. Simon Barrett, who has contributed segments to the "V/H/S" franchise and the truly odd "The ABCs of Death," starts adding more dimension to some of his characters, starts getting viewers – at least this viewer – more invested in them and in what they're doing. I'm still a bit puzzled by all of this, but at about that one-hour mark, I began to enjoy the movie. And with the exception of a blatant "borrow" from an early George Romero film, the last half-hour was both gripping and fun.
Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.
Written by Simon Barrett; directed by Adam Wingard
With Sharni Vinson, A.J. Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn