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Friday, August 23, 2013

YOU'RE NEXT - Go for the Masks, Stay for the Music

Some of you waited over two years for You’re Next to make it to the big screen or any screen for that matter save for a festival or two. I was blissfully unaware that this movie was coming out until about six months ago. The history of its production and release is not an uncommon tale these days. Movies are just sitting on the shelf waiting for the machine to figure out that audiences are ready for a different brand of horror from the next generation of horror filmmakers. The story of Cabin in the Woods comes to mind. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. Some of these projects never come to fruition while others are in the can (or on the hard drive) and waiting patiently to be scrutinized and loved by eyes of voyeurs looking for an exhibitionist. Some even get the limited theatrical release and fail to garner distro company support for a US release until several years later.  I am not going to be silent on this simple fact: once the movie gets a festival screening, I need it in my eyeballs within six months. You’re Next screened in two thousand-fucking-eleven, and while you may be patient, I wish I had seen this movie sooner rather than wait for a late weekend in August where it’s up against the final installment of the Cornetto trilogy, World’s End (that review will come later).  You’re Next is out after a series of previews that left audiences raving, and I have somehow avoided all of their reviews save for a few captioned headlines until now. It’s nice to have a movie unspoiled. We won’t start now, but here’s a little something about one of my favorite movies of the year. 

Synopsis (from Fandango to avoid spoilers): 
 
A family reunion turns into a full-on massacre when a gang of masked killers invade a sprawling country mansion on a ruthless mission of murder.
 







The first thing I noticed about You’re Next is that Adam Wingard got the right guy to do the music. Mads Heldtberg is a genius with sound and under the direction of Wingard, I have rarely been moved as much as I was with their effort. The original music is creepy, emotive and fits each scene like a black glove in a Giallo picture. Everything from late 70’s homage to raunchy sonic blasts to clear cut 80’s B action synth progressions gilded to make the inner-Rocky-Rip-Off fighter beat the baddies. I was sitting with my friends over at Little Punk People again, and Justin and I kept commenting on the perfect use of music; how it changed our emotions with each changing scene, moody and controlling our hearts like a cinematic pacemaker. This actually happened to me two other times in recent memory, this year in fact, during Lords of Salem and The Conjuring. Music is important. Sound is important. You’re next has great sound, and this era of horror movie makers is setting the bar for the use of sound to terrify in much the same way that movies like The Entity and Maximum Overdrive harnessed sound to great shock and scare. The cover of “Looking for the Magic” by Mind the Gap of a Dwight Twilley song should be played at every prom for the next five years. Danceable. Groovy. (Note: I need to get my band, The Cellar Dwellers, to cover this damn song). 

My impression about the overall picture, about 15 minutes in, was that I didn’t know whether I was supposed to laugh or be terrified. I had trouble categorizing scenes and didn’t know what to feel. Our audience didn’t either, not laughing or responding much with the exception of a gasp or two. I think this is Simon Barrett crafting, masterfully, a script that has a unique feel. You’re Next knows how to let the audience have fun, but not too much fun and not all at once. Think of You’re Next as a slow building orgasm, but not slow burn. You won’t get bored or think it drags. It simply has moments of humor, subtle humor that mix in well with moments of absolute horror and appropriate scares. I wasn’t sure if I was enjoying what I was watching in that first 15 minutes. I knew that I was enjoying it from an audio perspective from the get go. Visually the movie was shaky on a level I haven’t experienced in a non-found footage film. It was off-putting at first but gradually subsided. My stomach didn’t turn, but I was wondering why we couldn’t get a little more control in the shots. I understand camera shake for the sake of chaos, to create confusion, to inspire panic, but even in more relaxed shots? Unnecessary. Perhaps that is a result of this being on a big screen. It didn’t last long and the use of the shaky cam ended up working more than it detracted from my enjoyment of the movie. By the time I figured out that I was allowed to laugh and be scared and even clap at a kill or two, I realized that this was a movie I hadn’t scene before.

This cast is solid. Perfect. AJ Bowen is cute and loveable and would make an excellent Hobbit in a Peter Jackson movie (that is a compliment). I forgive you for Creepshow III. Don’t do it again! Ti West, who I didn’t realize was in the damn movie, is perfect at exactly what he does which I don’t want to discuss further. Sharni Vinson is brilliant. Get her in more movies. More horror movies to be specific. We need her in the genre. I won’t say that I want her typecast, but she needs more work than Bait 3D. How about Barbara Crampton's absolutely mesmerizing and unnerving performance? There's something to be said about a performance that creates family out of an actor. I've always enjoyed Crampton's performance, but this is something special.  Your masked animal folk work effectively and even seem to pay homage to a few of our favorite killers from the 80’s. I can think of one Michael Myers head cock that I’m positive I saw.

Once You’re Next turns on it’s a wild bloody, gory good time. It truly is a violent film from the outset, but it gets better, picks up and goes along at a pace only described as full title boogie until the climax (you will not be left unsatisfied). Expect solid violence. Good kills with practical effects that will make the CGI haters clap, and the uninitiated, civilian, non-gore lovers squirm. The audience was audibly disturbed be more than a few violent moments. You are no doubt familiar with the masks at this point; the ones that I complain that I have not been able to put my paws on. They work effectively to scare and, at times, to comedic effect. You’re Next knows how to scare without taking itself too seriously which absolutely changes the tone from The Strangers rip-off it might appear to be in the trailer to a fresh take on home invasion. Let me repeat that real quick: This is not The Strangers. That’s a great movie. This is different. Don’t let that deter you from seeing You’re Next. You haven’t seen You’re Next (unless of course you have).

I know that World’s End is coming out this weekend. I know it’s funny and has Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, a host of amazing actors and is directed by Edgar Wright. It’s a great movie that I watched last night as well as part of an impromptu double feature. You’ll laugh your asses off and fans of the rest of the other two films in the trilogy will be satisfied. That being said, you should make sure to see You’re Next FIRST! Then if you have time go see World’s End. That’s the order in which I prefer them though both are near certain to make my top ten list which is quickly going to need to buy new, extra large pants. This year has been awesome for horror. Awesome! The Year of the Gore continues. Adam Wingard, your V/H/S and V/H/S/2 efforts impressed me. This exceeded my expectation even with my self-induced hype and double caffeine boost of 5 Hour Energy and Coffee. You are officially a member of the Splat Pack Junior class, and I need to go enjoy some of your older shorts and feature films.

You’re Next is in theaters NOW! 

-Dr. TERROR

Note: Thanks to *Viewer Discretion Advised for posting the original version of “Looking for the Magic” this AM. I listened to it while writing this review. I was going to post it as a part of this review, but I’m thinking now that that’s actually a spoiler in some strange way. Let the first time you hear this song, if you’ve never heard it before, be in the movie. It was my first time… not like that. Filthy!

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