Tuesday, June 10, 2014

In short: You’re Next (2011/13)

Sometimes, I feel more than a little disconnected from horror fandom and assorted critics. Case in point is the general adoration and praise lavished on Adam Wingard’s You’re Next, things I don’t feel the movie at hand actually deserves.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I do appreciate Wingard’s obvious abilities when it comes to making his low budget movie look so good the budget really never comes to mind when watching it. I do also appreciate the cast of veterans, young pretty people, and the mandatory cameos by Larry Fessenden and Ti West (the latter of whom can’t act at all, I’m sorry to say), as well as the 80s horror vibe of the soundtrack.

Unfortunately, I don’t really watch movies to be impressed by technical achievements but rather for emotional and/or intellectual involvement, and these aren’t things I get out of You’re Next. The former is hindered by the film’s thick patina of irony and self-consciousness, as well as by the fact the film never bothers to give its audience the slightest reason to care about any of its characters, seeing as they are all ironic ciphers only held together by actors much too good for what they’re doing here. What they are doing is pretty much exactly what you suspect, which is what stands in the way of any intellectual involvement on my part. Sure, there are some mild trope reversals, and an obvious but mildly clever plot twist (which of course does make it superior to a lot of other plot twists that seem made up on the spot and not part of the actual movie you’ve seen leading up to them), but the film never goes anywhere too interesting with it and stays well inside the most conservative lines of horror film writing. After all, a tiny bit of self-consciousness and cheap irony are expected of a horror film in the 2010s, and I’d probably more surprised by a movie not featuring them.

There’s a feeling of pointlessness that runs through the whole film, nothing really seems thought through to reach any kind of conclusion beyond the most obvious and least interesting one. What’s going on is this: there’s a bit of violence you can see everywhere else, the trope reversals come yet are done in a way that is neither very interesting nor points towards any new insights about the horror genre or humanity, some jokes are cracked I don’t find very funny, and the old “the rich are decadent and evil” bit I have seen done with more energy and nastiness in giallos of more than forty years ago is sung. It all comes together to form a movie-like object that’s just kind of there without ever being willing to commit to anything and see it through to the bitter end – neither the irony, nor the thoughts it threatens to have, nor the basic horror thriller set-up. If this sort of thing is the future of horror, the future of horror will be even more boring than The Conjuring.

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