You’re Next (2011) Home Alone for Adults

Erin and an Axe You're Next
The 2011 horror/thriller You’re Next could be seen as a sort of twisted Home Alone for adults, but without the cute kid or the humor. In the holiday comedy, Macaulay Culkin develops survivalist skills which enable him to defeat the bad guys who want to enter his home and steal everything. You’re Next relies upon survivalist skills as well, although these are more military in nature and do not feature Christmas ornaments as weapons or cute little kid quips.

Written by Simon Barnett (V/H/S, V/H/S2) from a script by Adam Wingard (Autoerotic, A Horrible Way to Die) You’re Next features a cast with heavy horror backgrounds and has Australian actress Sharni Vinson as the plucky female hero whose survivalist father taught her how to be a Rambo clone.

Vinson, whose career started with a regular spot on the Aussie soap Home and Away, has been working since 2008 and her film roles have been varied. From the quirky, sharks in a mall horror film, Bait on the one hand to a role in Step Up 3D on the other. Vinson has worked on a number of different films and this role is more on the horror side and less on the “let’s dance” film role.

In You’re Next, a family reunion turns deadly when someone begins to murder the family members one by one. Vinson’s character Erin is dating Crispian (AJ Bowen), the wimpy son of millionaire parents who has too many brothers, and a sister. As they all gather for the reunion, the sister’s boyfriend is the first one to die when a crossbow bolt enters his forehead from outside the house.

Once the violence begins in earnest, it is Erin who steps in to save the day. She tries to help the family and as the bodies begin to mount up, she gets more desperate and more inventive on how to defend the house and the dwindling family members.

While this film is really nothing more than a slasher film with a twist, the ingenuity of the girl’s traps and her use of everyday household items to kill the baddies is pretty impressive. Without giving too much away, there is at least one electrical kitchen appliance that is used to brilliant effect and one non-electrical item that is used to end another villain’s killing streak.

This dark look as what could be seen as the epitome of a dysfunctional family along with staggering greed from certain siblings combined with the dinner party from hell is certainly entertaining. Fans of horror films, especially those of the slasher variety, will love this film. Add to the mix of screaming death a heroine who is a svelte girl who is not afraid to get her hands bloody and you have a great combination of gore and guts of the intestinal fortitude kind.

There are a couple of twists and at least one humorous moment where a baddie climbs in a window and learns he is not as clever as he thought. If any complaint could be made about the film, it would be with the cacophony of screaming when the dinner party is interrupted by the first death. Loud, over the top, and annoying, it seems that everyone tries to outdo each other in terms of decibel levels. It is, in fact, so irritating that if they all died right there and then, the peaceful quiet would be worth the early end to the film.

Screaming aside, the plot is pretty impressive and the final reveal along with that last twist makes this a cracker of a film. Considering the amount of stabbings and crossbow injuries there are not copious amounts of blood spilled. The gore is not OTT and there are no bloody entrails draped across the furniture or the floor. There is an impressive amount of claret spilled and splashed across the screen which is to be expected in any slasher oriented film.

What impresses throughout is the cleverness employed by Erin (Vinson) as she helps the family survive that little bit longer. Manufacturing traps and exhibiting a fearless attitude and attacking the villains as they present themselves, Crispian’s girlfriend could be classed as the perfect guest to invite to any reunion massacre.

You’re Next may not have nubile teenagers misbehaving and being savagely despatched, but it is a kissing cousin to the standard slasher since most of the film has killers that are masked and, seemingly, omnipresent. This award winning film was the darling of the festival circuit and justifiably so.

Fans of the genre will enjoy this film and if you missed it in 2011 when it first came out, you can watch it now via US Netflix. This is a 5 out of 5 star horror film with a splendidly wry ending and a great protagonist. Vinson may not call anyone a “filthy animal,” or smack anyone comically with a tin of paint, but she does defend the occupants of this mansion in the countryside by a number of ingenious, and not so ingenious, ways. Sort of Home Alone with lots of blood and no cartoon screams.

V/H/S (2012) Fantastic Found Tape Fear

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I had thought that I was pretty much burnt out on “found footage” films. But my excitement levels rose after this film got into its second vignette  out of the six “mini” films on offer here.

Although the film really falls into the anthology genre, a few horror films do this really well but the ones who can really pull if off are all Asian film makers, who have yet to make an anthology film that could be classed as a stinker.

This anthology of “found” footage horror films had been written and directed by some of the most impressive new names in horror today:  Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, and the directing quartet known as Radio Silence.

The film opened January 2012 at the  2012 Sundance Film Festival  and was then  released on demand on August 31, 2012. V/H/S then had a limited  theatrical premiere in the United States on October 5, 2012, in the UK on January 18, 2013, and in Argentina on February 7, 2013.

I will not go into any of the films except for the one that ties all the segments together. A group of young men are hired to steal a video tape from a house. They accept the job and find that the house is full of video tapes, video players and a dead man. As the film moves forward, the action keeps cutting back to the room with the dead (?) man and all those tape players.

Tapes are put into a player and watched, by both one of the young men and us. The dead body on the chair behind the film’s video watching character appears and disappears. It is a brilliant way to segue the different films together in a cohesive manner.

Each of the six films are entertaining. Each one has a separate theme and they all feature a type of almost “guerrilla” film making. The other thing that the films all have in common, is that they don’t don’t suffer from what I like the call, “The Cloverfield Effect.”

In the 2008 film, Cloverfield, when the character in the film who was “filming” the events put the camera down, even in a stressful or scary situation, the camera was always right side up and always in focus. The found films in the anthology don’t do that. Cameras seemingly wind up where they, “wind up,” if you get my meaning. It doesn’t feel like a “movie” so much as actual found footage.

The news that a sequel is due out this year, actually has me quite excited. As I said above, I thought I was burnt out on this particular genre, but apparently,  a well made “found footage” film can still get me excited.

This is a real 5 out of 5 stars as all the stories were original and in most cases, I couldn’t see the twist coming. Of course I might be too obtuse, but as a rule, I can usually see the twist a mile away. Great little film here that won’t disappoint you.

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