Movie: You're Next; Director: Adam Wingard; Studio: Lionsgate; Rating: R; My finding: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.
Standard horror elements from classic slasher and home invasion films of the 1980s run high in director Adam Wingrad's "You're Next," but are largely upended by being so entertaining.
The film opens with all the things people have come to expect from slasher films, all done in a completely satisfying manner. A generational-gap couple has just finished having sex. He goes to take a shower and she goes downstairs in her thigh-highs and open shirt to make some vodka and orange juice drinks. She also puts 1977's "Looking for the Magic" by the Dwight Twilley band on repeat, which becomes the film's ongoing gag and eventual theme song.
But there's a noise outside.
The title of the film is written on the sliding glass door in her blood soon thereafter and we're off.
"That's too bad," says Aubrey (Barbara Crampton, still looking as amazing as she did in 1985's "The Re-Animator"), the mother of a family rich in military munitions money, to her husband, Paul (Rob Moran, recognizable from many a millennial comedy) as they drive pass the house of the dead couple and talk about how the man left his wife for a college girl.
"It'll be nice to have a neighbor up here," Paul says in response, talking about the isolation.
Soon their spoiled adult children and lovers will come to stay and celebrate the couple's 35-year wedding anniversary following Paul's retirement.
Their home is an even larger semi-Tudor mansion surrounded by trees.
Wimpy and bearded Crispian (played by A.J. Bowen of many a small film) is the first of the children with upper-crust first names to arrive along with his Australian girlfriend, Erin (Sharni Vinson, of Australian TV show "Home and Away"). They're needed, too, to comfort Aubrey after she thinks she heard a thud and somebody upstairs.
Soon the others show up. First there is Drake (Joe Swanberg, a director of shoe-string budget movies who also appears in the films of other small-budget directors), a very rude, childish and self-involved older brother who brings along his equally self-involved and Valiumed-up lover, Kelly.
Then little, annoying Aimee shows up with her boyfriend, Tariq (Ti West, another of the director/actor set), who is a director of a single "intellectual" "documentary" that was only shown at "underground" film festivals, for which he is rightly made fun of by Drake.
It's all going the way a dysfunctional family dinner should go until Tariq is the first to be blasted in the forehead with a crossbow arrow through the window.
And off the gore, mayhem,
suspense and fine black humor goes at a rapid-fire pace!
Except Aussie Erin seems a little too good at fighting back.
The first twist of the film, explaining why the home invasion is even happening, could be seen very early on, which takes away a whole line of suspense away from the proceedings. The last twist, though, is a surprise even though it could have been done better because a character just disappears from the story for a very long time preceding the end.
This is the movie that "The Purge," which only came out a few months ago, should have been. The pretenses of social commentary found in that terrible film are nowhere to be found here, unless you find spoiled brats being systematically murdered by men in animal masks to be social commentary.
Instead, "You're Next" uses black humor to entertain. When you're not jumping at the scares or even the effective use of handheld cameras to add a little mayhem to some scenes, then you may be smiling, despite the gore and screaming, at some of the inventiveness of the picture.
Suprisingly, I often found myself thinking of Macaulay Culkin's Kevin McCallister character in the two "Home Alone" movies when watching the way Erin deals with the killers. There's spiked things next to the windows, elaborate traps to be set off by opening doors, and all kinds of traps that a grown Kevin may have set, would he have been one of these spoiled adults left alone to deal with intruders.
But that's not a bad thing. Gore and violence runs deep within our cultural touchstones, perhaps a testament to the ease of American life outside of a few grumbles that pale in comparison to the problems of the world at large. Now that we've grown accustomed to this line of entertainment, we may as well add some humor to it to add vitality.
No one piece of entertainment lives in isolation of the world around it, whether it consciously comments on it or not. Critics of some aspects of our culture need only to realize their complaints encompass a single layer and that without multi-layered culture we would live in a dull monochrome.
Embrace the modern times in any way that you can because the past isn't coming back. And if horror movies like "You're Next" - the second, following "The Conjuring," in what appears to be a string of wildly good horror movies - are what we have to look forward to when political correctness and fear of offending the very vocal members of the minority dead set on ruining fun are both thrown out the window, then it will be even easier to seize the day.
(Flint McColgan is a staff writer for The Minot Daily News. His movie reviews appear in Thursday's Arts & Entertainment section.)