Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Film Review: You're Next

Copyright: Lionsgate
If this film were a person, I would say that I like its style. Like all stylish things, it didn’t become that way from trying too hard when everybody was already looking. Instead, its parts clicked well together, and it had enough self-awareness not to drive it over the edge. I noticed this in the first minutes after the intro killing scene. The director Adam Wingard sets the stage in a few broad strokes, and forms the main character.

Crispian and Erin, a young intellectual couple travel to a mansion where Crispian’s parents are hosting a family get together. There, Crispian’s other siblings accompanied by their partners soon arrive, and everything looks set for a nice weekend of hidden alcoholism and passive aggression in an upper class suburban emotional nightmare. But, during their first collective dinner, a single crossbow bolt changes everything. In a blink of an eye, the evening transforms into a battle for survival. But, unbeknown to anyone, Erin is a daughter of an Australian outback doomsday peppers who isn’t willing to lie down and just die.

Wingard kicks the film right into action after that bolt comes flying through the window. The pace immediately becomes frantic and extremely bloody, mostly because of the fact that the besieged property holds around ten people and thus an equal number of potential victims (a good stock for any horror film). The attackers, clad in black, wear bone white animal masks, and first seem totally uninterested in speaking or doing anything else except killing everybody. But, as Erin gets her bearing and starts to resist, so does a more complicated motive emerge.

The thing that adds to the stylishness of the film is its visual identity. The whole movie takes place in and around of the mansion, where the masks and black figures in military boots, work perfectly as a visual counterpoint to the warm traditional interior of the house and the preppy clothing the Erin, Crispian and the rest of the family wear, above all in the moment when the arterial blood starts to fly all over the nice curtains and padded furniture. The cinematography of the films also stands out, as the footage plays around with different light sources, like a beam piercing through a keyhole or a continuous flashlight from a camera.

You're Next is a survival horror that adds a bit of black humor to its bigger turning points. But, somehow, it works as a much more interesting film. It expands it relatively confined genre space by combining elements that are foreign to each other, most notably its main character Erin. A reluctant Australian girl who was brought up by Australian survivalist nutjobs isn’t a kind of person I often see in horror films. Sharni Vinson plays Erin in an interesting way, and keeps her character in a state of mild ubiquity, switching her from predator to pray and back again. This murky approach Vinson employed also contributed to the unusual and unpredictable horror atmosphere Wingard constructed till the end.

I’m glad to see that You're Next is a horror film that doesn’t mind experimenting with standard genre ideas, while successfully remaining true to its goal of entertaining.