Its comforting when animal-masked spree killers have a basic knowledge of punctuation.
By JON NICCUM
Special to The Star
That way when scrawling Youre next in a victims blood on the wall above their latest kill, they at least know where to put the apostrophe. Writing Your next simply isnt professional.
The horror flick Youre Next wrestles with its own misplaced professionalism. It offers some memorable performances and a taut, stylish delivery. But its screenplay lacks polish; the logic doesnt hold up.
Shot in Columbia, Mo. which explains the inclusion of a tiger mask the film combines a home-invasion thriller with an 80s-style revenge slasher. Clever touches crop up all over the place to offset its more derivative aspects.
Five couples converge on a Tudor estate in the Missouri woodlands in honor of the 35th anniversary of Paul and Aubrey (Rob Moran and former scream queen Barbara Crampton). Years have passed since this fractured family shared the same household.
Doughy college professor Crispian (AJ Bowen) brings along Erin (Sharni Vinson), his Australian girlfriend and former student. Smug brother Drake (Joe Swanberg) and vapid wife Kelly (Margaret Laney) are next to arrive. Pampered sister Aimee (Amy Seimetz) is dating aloof documentary filmmaker Tariq (The Innkeepers director Ti West), while mousy brother Felix (Nicholas Tucci) introduces his gum-smacking hipster gal Zee (Wendy Glenn).
Its been a long time since weve all been together. So it should be interesting, Crispian tells Erin.
Things get more interesting when a crossbow bolt flies through the window, killing one of the party. A trio of killers with no discernible motive surrounds the house and starts picking off the trapped group.
Fortunately, one of the guests possesses useful survival skills that none of the assailants anticipate.
The setup of Youre Next is rather simplistic, but what director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett (both veterans of the V/H/S horror anthologies) add to the equation is a dysfunctional family dynamic that rings true. Bickering siblings still find time to argue about which one of them can run the fastest even as they sit bleeding to death.
As with a genre classic such as Alien, which benefited from a largely unknown cast at the time, Youre Next has the advantage of keeping its main character under wraps until the midway point. What had been a chaotic free-for-all becomes a butt-kicking crowd-pleaser once the hero surfaces to take charge.
Too bad more realism doesnt accompany this revelation. The characters make irrational choices not even a panicked toddler would consider. Its merely a cheap way to thin the herd, almost as if the victims snorted a batch of the chemicals from The Cabin in the Woods that cause teens to split up when investigating strange noises.
Youre Next always throws in something unexpected as certain convoluted secrets become easier to predict. One of the animal gang is distracted by the use of an automatic camera flash, which eerily evokes the confrontation between James Stewart and Raymond Burr in Rear Window, minus the dated orange optical effects.
If only the movie had gone further. Its humor comes in spurts, so its not quite a horror-comedy. And it still relies on too formulaic a structure to be considered innovative. Plus, it often uses gore as a punch line instead of actually crafting a punch line.
Like the crossbow-wielding killer in the lamb disguise, Youre Next triggers more near-misses than direct hits.