The Watchers

The Watchers

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Review: You're Next (UK Cert 18)

There’s no in-between with slasher films. They’re like Marmite; you either love them or hate them. There are those who enjoy the thrill, the tension, the guessing where the killer’s going to appear next; then there are those who, to quote Neve Campbell in Scream, think they’re all the same, “Some stupid killer, stalking some big-breasted girl, who can't act, who is always running upstairs when she should be running out the front door.” For me, I love a good slasher film, if it’s done right. Out of all the horror sub-genres – and film in general – the slasher film has literally been done to death. Every method of killing someone has more-or-less been done, and there are far too many films where a woman, with her cleavage ready to fall out, falls over (no reason why she falls over, she just does) then begs the masked killer not to carve her up.

I may have been living in a log cabin in the woods, miles from anyone, but I don’t remember all that much hype about Adam Wingard’s You’re Next. Like the very best slasher film killers, it quietly snuck up on me. The first I knew about it was when I saw a poster on the side of a phone box, with line after line of four and five-star reviews and the film’s title dripping in blood. Who needs Photoshop, that poster told me all I needed to know.

If Hitchcock’s Psycho started the ball rolling, then John Carpenter’s Halloween wrote the rule book. Sadly, after the success of Halloween, countless imitations followed (anyone fancy Crazy Fat Ethel 2?), which gave slasher films their garbage reputation. What should have been a sub-genre of original cinematography, editing and sound design, simply became an excuse to see some breasts.

Where does You’re Next sit in this over-crowded sub-genre? Thankfully somewhere near the top, if not quite reaching the classic status of Halloween or A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The problem with You’re Next is that it’s a film of two halves.  The first half is the set up: the so-obnoxious-it’s-hysterical family coming together, the masked killers wiping them out one-by-one; then the second half sees Sharni Vinson’s character turn the tables and bring the fight to the killers. Me personally, I much preferred the second half.

This probably makes me sound crazy, but I judge a slasher film by the number of times I sit in the cinema and mutter, “He’s under the bed”, “He’s behind the door”, or “He’s in the closet”. Sadly, with the exception of a ridiculously tense scene involving a crossbow, and one jolt that I genuinely didn't see coming, the first half of You’re Next has far too many predictable moments like this.

Another thing that annoys me with slasher films is how stupid some of the characters behave. I get that if the teenagers didn't go into the old house, or never went into the woods to check what that noise was, there would be no film, but it ruins my enjoyment when I see a character do something that is genuinely, mind-bogglingly stupid. You’re Next does not have too many scenes like this, and many of these can be explained by an impressively original plot twist, but they still grate. The sole purpose of one female character is simply to scream a lot and provide no practical help whatsoever (luckily she’s killed off early on).

Then you have the second half, where Sharni Vinson picks up every kind of sharp object you can think of and takes the killers on single-handed. This part of the film is a hell of a lot fun! Vinson’s Erin is up there with Scream’s Sidney Prescott, Jamie Lee Curtis’s reinvention of Laurie Strode in Halloween H20, and Nancy Thompson in A Nightmare on Elm Street in the classic Final Girl stakes. Vinson does everything right, is as tough as nails, and you genuinely start worrying about the killers, as there’s no way they are going to make it out of the house alive.

I really wish screenwriter Simon Barrett had the guts to do this from the start, rather than the seen-it-all-before first half: masked killers terrorise a house only to get more than they bargained for when one of the residents is the female Rambo. I’ve certainly never seen a slasher film play out like that for a full ninety minutes.

That said, You’re Next can go round-for-round with Scream when it comes to one-liners; some of the bickering between the family, and also the killers, is gold dust (“Come on man, give me a break; just die!”). The cinematography cranks up the tension with plenty of close ups, hiding the killers from view, some great use of light and dark that hails back to Carpenter, as well as some carefully timed editing, where a shot is held for an excruciatingly long time before we get the loud music and cut to the killer leaping out.

Wingard’s film is no Cabin in the Woods, and it’s definitely no Scream, but if you like your slasher films then You’re Next is easily one of the better examples of the sub-genre, if not quite the four/five-star film its icky poster claims.

Rating: 3 out of 5 


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