I do wish I could see the same movie all those folks who are heaping praise on Adam Wingard’s You’re Next saw — you know, the really scary, funny one with all the fresh ideas. I want to see that one. There must have been something wrong with the print I saw. Oh, it said it was You’re Next, the credits seemed correct and the story followed the clips in the trailer, but what I saw was an unevenly acted, moderately efficient home-invasion picture with an old-as-the-hills plot Scotch-taped to it. I didn’t mind it. I may have jumped once. I chuckled a few times — sometimes at things that were possibly intended to be funny. But the wickedly funny, terrifying, original movie I’d been told to expect wasn’t there. (Let’s not even get into the supposed idea that there’s some kind of deeply subversive message here, which has been claimed.)
After a pretty stock opening involving the murder of a college professor and his nubile cutie (and terminally stupid) girlfriend by evildoers in animal masks, the film turns into one of those things where a lot of people are heading to some kind of party at an Isolated Country Mansion (just down the road from the freshly slaughtered duo, of course). In this case, we have a retiring weapons contractor (Rob Moran) and his spectacularly unbalanced wife (Barbara Crampton) holding a family gathering at their summer home. (Since he’s a retired munitions-maker, he’s obviously disposable.) Of course, the family is dysfunctional and their significant others are no better. It is a central failing of the film that none of the characters are very likable, making it hard to care who ends up in a pool of his or her own blood. Even the plucky girl (Sharni Vinson) with the skills to fight back (she was raised on a survivalist compound, you see) isn’t especially likable — just less repellent and annoying than the others.
It takes approximately a half-hour to get to the central mayhem with our masked marauders crashing the family reunion, and once we get there, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before — despite the not-hard-to-guess “twist.” It’s a blend of your standard meat-on-the-hoof body count picture (where people insist on doing stupid things) and 1971’s Straw Dogs — or perhaps Home Alone (1990), which was essentially Straw Dogs with fewer deaths and an even shorter lead actor. For what it is, it’s not bad, but it’s only sporadically more than that. There are occasional bright moments of black humor. The best gag is a riff on the boiling water business in Straw Dogs. All in all, though, I was underwhelmed. Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity.
Playing at Carmike 10