I swear that my DEMONS Steelbook reviews are coming next. It’s just that a couple of other articles have taken precedence, but I promise the next one will be on the Steelbooks. Honest!
Once upon a time, it was a joy to discover a film, via simply browsing through the horror section at my local HMV, or checking-out titles in the New Releases rack of a DVD rental store or library. Now, it’s a chore. So much current horror output from the past few years, has been nothing more than one-dimensional effluent, that insults the viewer from the minute it starts, to the final frame.
Alas, I should have learnt my lesson. But each time, I pray that the next one might just actually genuinely surprise me, and offer me up some deliciously diabolical nasty, that makes me regain my faith in the genre…
…This is not that time.
Unlike my usual reviews, this one will contain massive spoilers. I apologise to those of you who may want to see this film, but this title is so awful, that I am not doing you a disservice by revealing certain plot-points. However, should you still wish to see this film, then please do NOT read the rest of my review. Watch the film first, then return back here to read on. You have been warned!
Right, so why am I writing yet another angry, opinionated dissection of a horror film. I do it, because I enjoy writing about aspects of Extreme Cinema, but I also write as catharsis. I enjoy the emotional release that typing-out my anger and venom on the page, and it gives me a satisfactory release. Not only that, but I find it refreshing to actually read genuinely well-written reviews (from other people), that don’t just consistently gush-over a particular title, whilst systematically fucking me over, convincing me that a film is the greatest piece of celluloid splatter since the last, when nothing could be further from the truth.
I prefer writers who aren’t afraid to be bold, brazen and even bolshie! I enjoy bad cinema as often as the next man, but there’s a time and a place for “bad” films, or even films that are so-bad-they’re-actually-really-really-good. However, this will not be one of those films. YOU’RE NEXT (2013, Adam Wingard) is just one more in a mammoth and prestigious line-up of movies so utterly banal, so completely soul-destroying, and so totally inept, that you have to wonder how on God’s green Earth they got financed.
As I’ve said in previous reviews, I honestly believe that American horror cinema has run out of ideas. I haven’t seen a single, decent, and original (or at least an original variation on a well-worn plot) in at least two years. The last original US horror I really rated, was EXCISION (2013, Richard Bates, Jnr.) which you can read about here
which truly was
an audacious, original piece of cinema that took a relatively well-worn theme (the alienated outsider) and subverted it, into one of the most stunning debut features I’ve seen in a very long time.
YOU’RE NEXT, is anything but original. A “home invasion” film, in which a bunch of spoilt, rich brats decide that they must have their eventual financial inheritance right now, and so they join together to kill the parents, in order to speed-up the inevitable. Alas, it’s as pedestrian as they come. The family arrive at a reclusive log cabin, in the arse-end of nowhere special, gather for a meal, and their celebrations are ruthlessly interrupted by a bunch of crazed wacko’s with weapons.
It’s all very much horror paint-by-numbers, and to be frank, I’m getting exceedingly pissed-off having well-known (and what I thought were reasonably trustworthy) film publications, newspapers and film critics cite these films as being the best thing ever. If you go by the cover-art on YOU’RE NEXT, then Empire magazine gives it 4/5; as do The Guardian newspaper, and Digital Spy. Ain’t It Cool rates it as “terrifying”, and Den Of Geek cites it as being “The best slasher since SCREAM”! Not that I thought that much of SCREAM in the first place, but nonetheless…
So why is this film so awful? Well, firstly, it’s a paint-by-numbers pedestrian horror. A occurs, which results in B, which causes C to be required to be undertaken. Everything is sign-posted a mile-away, and almost every major (and most of the minor) plot point can be ticked-off in a giant checklist. You’ll know who is good, who is bad, who is pretending, who will kill who and when, within minutes. It’s really uninspiring stuff.
What’s worse, at least in my view, is that this is being rated as being innovative genre work. It isn’t! Not by a very long shot!
EXCISION was innovative!
THE ABC’S OF DEATH was original, even if anthology films aren’t!
THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE was daring, as it added a new twist on the “mad-doctor” theme!
YOU’RE NEXT is just the same-old, same-old. Yes, there are twists and shocks, but they’ve been done before, and been done better. Home-Invasion films aren’t anything new. Neither are slashers. (And how many of them have we all seen?) Slashers don’t need to be original to be innovative. They do, however, need to be entertaining, and at least attempt to do something that hasn’t been done before, or subvert it to a sufficient extent, that the viewer can be surprised. Simply killing people, is no longer smart or original. From “home invasion” classics like PSYCHO or STRAW DOGS, through to more modern attempts such as RINGU, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, or even THE OMEN, the genre has been done-to-death. In this film, director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett, try “animal masks” as their little pièce de résistance
Sadly, what they don’t do, is explain why animal masks are worn, other than to disguise the invaders, nor why the masks were relevant. And if they weren’t relevant, then why have them? They may well be distinct from the likes of Jason’s hockey mask in any of the FRIDAY THE 13TH series, or the plain-yet-ethereally-sinister HALLOWEEN mask worn by Michael Myers, but you could have given your characters any kinds of mask. Hell, even a balaclava is a kind of mask, but that appears in numerous crime films, as the go-to-disguise for bank robbers and the like, such as those in Michael Mann’s acclaimed crime-epic HEAT (1995).
So why give them animal masks? Was it to creep audiences out? Was it to inspire fear? Was it to give-off a threatening demeanour? If it was any of these, then it’s failed so prodigiously, because the masks do none of these. They are merely practical objects to disguise the invaders, who themselves, aren’t anything special. (It turns out that the invaders are merely friends of one of the family’s children, who have been asked to kill-off the rest of the family, for the aforementioned inheritance, but also to leave one of the girls unharmed.)
But, you ask, you haven’t really explained to us, why you dislike the film. Now, I shall.
This film, like GUTTERBALLS (see here
) or THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS, is on a scale of stupidity, so incredulous, it defies all logic. At the start of the film, Erin (Sharni Vinson – a doppelganger for Ellen Byrnes from INSIDIOUS and TV’s DAMAGES – if ever I saw) is sent out by the mother of the family (Barbara Crampton, in a fun, but ultimately frivolous guest-starring role) to get some milk, from a neighbour’s house.
Erin goes to the house, knocks on the door, hears loud music playing, but no one responds. She goes back to the house she is staying at with her boyfriend, and his family, only to… Well, we never actually get told. That plot point is mysteriously ignored; forgotten about; left unsolved, and is never returned too. It may not be a necessary point, and I’m not suggesting that it needed to be completed, but to just leave audiences high-and-dry like that, does smack of lazy script-writing skills. If it was only that issue that was left, I’d not be so hard on it. But there are many more.
In one part of the film, the power is cut, by the home invaders, and the house is plunged into complete darkness. One of the family members asks where the circuit-breakers are, and is told they’re in the basement. Yet, no one is seen going down to the basement to check what’s happened, or to learn that – actually, no – the circuit-breakers haven’t failed, but that the power has been deliberately severed. Again, not a major issue, but it would have been nice, and more obviously, it would have made more narrative sense to explain it. However, when the power is suddenly shown as being back on, ten minutes later on in the film, and no one has explained why or even how they got the power back on, then I’m going to start questioning the film’s own internal logic, because you can’t cut the power of a house, and then not explain how the power comes back on. Viewers simply aren’t that stupid these days!
Likewise, Erin is a survivalist. Okay, that’s fair enough, and it explains why she can do so much of what she does. What the film doesn’t explain (or even make even the vaguest attempts of explaining even just for fun) is why she is so powerful and sensible, whilst the rest of the family’s grown-up children, are such complete tools!
The rest of the kids divide into one of two character tropes: petrified, screaming wrecks, freaking out right from the very start (and shouting the oh-so-cliched “We’re all going to die!” line) through to the gibbering wrecks who can’t even comprehend the most basic of survival skills, such as staying away from windows, when you are in a property that is under siege, or keeping your trap shut, or even – saints preserve us – keeping close to the floor, when moving from one location to another, rather than walking upright from location to location. The fact that these people are supposed to be relatively intelligent humans, albeit ones who are all “warped” (or maybe I should say “damaged”) in their own, unique ways, doesn’t help matters. It’s little things like this, that no one, except the most dunderheaded of morons, would follow. It defies logic, and it certainly defies film-logic, even by the most extreme of concepts! And this is supposed to be a logic, that we the viewers, are supposed to buy into, and thus, to enjoy the film.
Unfortunately, the film is so annoying, you will probably find yourselves shouting or cursing at the screen, just begging for someone, anyone, to get a brain cell, and stop acting like complete dunces. Your screams, however, will be wasted!
Look, I get that film-logic and real-world logic aren’t the same, or even in the same ballpark, but only a complete dickhead would not try to preserve their life, if they were genuinely under attack. There are certain things we humans would probably do, no matter if we were survivalists or mere mortals. The characters in YOU’RE NEXT are merely ciphers of the most idiotic kind, and part of me, thinks that them dying is actually a good thing. A Darwinian thinning of the herd. If you are on your own, you locate anything you can use as a weapon, and guard it with your life. If you’re in somewhere like a kitchen, don’t just take one weapon, take as many as you can carry. Basic things like that.
Whichever it is, it’s these kinds of idiotic decisions, that make you feel like the film cares little for logic, and is just trying to get-by, and drowning the further it continues onwards, to the inevitable trivial end.
Other aspects of the film grate too. Ti West has a cameo role as a documentary film-maker called Tariq. Guess who gets killed first? Yes: the only non-white, non-American character in the entire film! Should I be reading anything into this? I know ethnic characters in action films don’t tend to fare too well at the best of times, and I’m acutely aware of how bad Hollywood treats Arabic or Muslim characters in cinema, parading them off as the “evil other”, but is horror now going to follow suit? I hope not. It’s not that I’m against it, per se, just that it seems a tad racist to do so? Just as always having a woman, who also happens to be young, sexually attractive, white and (often) blonde and blue-eyed be the last-one-standing also seems exceedingly cliched, it becomes boring.
And why get Ti West’s character to be called Tariq? Why not call him Tarquin, or Thomas, or Terry, or anything other than something “ethnic”?! Again, it’s not wrong to call him such a name, and I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have ethnic characters in horror films. What I am saying is, why give your character an ethnic (or ethnic-sounding) name, if you only then intend to have them played by a white, Westerner, and – maybe more importantly – have them killed off, only after you’ve given them a back story that might actually be worthy of viewer’s time? It’d be as bad as having Osama Bin Laden in ZERO DARK THIRTY played by Martin Scorsese, or Dame Judi Dench play an athletic twenty-year-old.
As films go, this is totally superficial entertainment, at best. There are a couple of fun moments: death-by-food-blender at the 1hr 20m mark was pretty good, as was most of Erin’s ballsy counterattacks on the invaders, but ultimately, nothing that can save the film from being completely pointless and irrelevant. Yes, for 90 minutes, this passes the time, but it’s like supermarket value-priced vanilla ice-cream. A minor treat, but completely forgettable, and something you horribly regret consuming afterwards, being as it is so deeply unfulfilling. If this turned-up on TV, I’d say it’s worth a watch. As a film to rent or even buy, then no, this is not deserving of your cash in any way, shape or form. The less successful this film is, the better. It’s simply not good for horror fans to be praising, or paying the director or the studio to reward them for this product. It’s shallow tosh, and forgettable tosh at that. Let it fall by the wayside, and give your time and cash to eminently more worthwhile titles. The American horror producers need to be told in no uncertain terms, that enough-is-enough. That this kind of turgid, half-baked crap will no longer be tolerated by decent horror film fans, and that the buck stops here! I will not continue to allow my intelligence, or that of my blog readers, to be constantly bombarded by Z-grade trash, that is insulting to everyone involved!
Take a stand! Leave YOU’RE NEXT well alone, if you see it in your local DVD rental outlet, or cinema. We all deserve better!
Next time… I swear on my life, the DEMONS Steelbook reviews will be published. (I’m so sorry to those of you who are clawing to read my view on these. I don’t normally have this much stuff to be published, in such a short space of time.) Cheers for your patience!