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  1. The darkness envelops the night, the wind howls, the demons lurk... Oh yes, it is that dark and evil week my children, step right into the mouth of madness, into the land of sin, into HALLOWEEN HAVOC 2015. Up first, a recent chiller to tingle your spines You're Next Chosen by The Unholy Dragon (who didn't send an explanation, tsk tsk) Reviewed by that Havoc veteran Jingus YOU'RE NEXT (directed by Adam Windgard): 5/10 "Really? You HAD to do that RIGHT in front of me?!" Why are there so damn many home-invasion films being made nowadays? And unlike most horror flicks, many of them actually get picked up for wide theatrical releases. Why? What about this appeals so strongly to our subconscious, in today's current society? Certainly a lot of our culture does seem to have a "hunker in the bunker" mentality (for example, the insane-but-widely-held notion that everyone needs more guns... in what's already the most-gun-owning country in the world, at a time when our overall crime rates are at a forty-year record low). But, seriously, the past dozen years have seen a seemingly endless stream of movies which are basically R-rated versions of Home Alone. There's been so damn many, we're even remaking the home-invasion films of previous decades and from different countries: Straw Dogs, The Last House on the Left, I Spit On Your Grave, Black Christmas, Funny Games... jeez, enough already. You're Next at least tries to be a little different from the pack. The movie starts with a fairly well-done sequence of two random people being stalked and slaughtered by unknown assailants, just to let us know what we're in for. Meanwhile, just up the road, the main plot centers around a family reunion, being held at a big-ass vacation mansion in the middle of the woods. Wealthy retiree Paul (Rob Moran, falling far behind the rest of the cast with a terrible performance) and his mildly disturbed wife Aubrey (80s scream queen Barbara Crampton, aka "the poor chick who got head from a head in Re-Animator") are hosting a rare get-together with their four children and their significant others. The protagonists-by-default wind up being the oldest son, a wimpy professor named Crispian (current horror mainstay AJ Bowen) and his new girlfriend Erin (Australian should-be-a-star-in-a-fair-world Sharni Vinson). There's already some unpleasantness in the house, with old grudges and family dysfunction threatening to bubble over; but all that's put on hold when arrows start blasting through the windows and shooting people dead. The fact that the entire main cast of ten meatbags is made of a family and some of their lovers gives a slightly different feeling to this movie than most body-count flicks. Slashers and their sister subgenres often tend to be incredibly callous towards the emotional trauma that the survivors should be feeling over the deaths of their loved ones. I wonder if this is why so many massacre-style pictures tend to involve emotionally unbalanced teenagers who forget their late childhood friends seemingly minutes after their bloody demises, or are collections of people who mostly don't know each other all that well; it saves the filmmakers from having to DEAL with the aftereffects of all that gee-whiz gory violence. You're Next is better than average, by horror standards, at looking raw psychological vulnerability in the face. Don't get me wrong, it ain't exactly an Atom Egoyan film when it comes to closely studying the effects of trauma upon the human psyche; but at least it TRIES to make some moves in that direction, and for this I am thankful. The problem is, however... okay, how do I talk about this... let's just say, without spoiling anything, that something extra is happening. This isn't just a re-do of The Strangers with psychos killing because psychos kill; there's other shit going on that we don't know about up front. (It even explains a few things which, at first, seem to be glaring plot holes.) But... well, I hate to blame one movie for not being as good as another movie. Sadly, there is absolutely no getting around the fact that You're Next has the GREAT misfortune to be released in the same generation of horror films as The Cabin in the Woods. And comparing the two is like comparing Friday the 13th to Twitch of the Death Nerve: they're basically doing the same thing, but one of them is working at SUCH a higher and more complex level than the other. On the craftsmanship side of things, I have to give the filmmakers props; this is a well-made flick. The audio mix is especially noteworthy, with the sound effects sounding awesome and there's an unusually ambitious amount of fading back and forth between different soundscapes. An unusual score also helps, mixing 80s-John-Carpenter-style synthetic riffs with some 70s-Tobe-Hooper style atonal anti-music. The movie looks nice too, with excellent lighting and framing, leaving us with a bunch of pretty pictures (of oft-horrifying content) that have a neat warm candlelit-ish glow around them. The final touch is a cast of people who, by "most of these people are dead men walking" slasher standards, are fairly real-feeling and relatable human beings. They're not NICE people, most of them are actually right bastards to one degree or another; but they're the sort of bastards that we know from real life, and much less Phony Movie People than is norm for lower-budget flicks in this genre. But... back to that plot. It keeps spinning, with at least one or two more twists than the movie really needed. I might've given this an overall positive score with a 6/10, if the film didn't first get repetitive and then damn'd contrived and silly in the final scenes. "Someone sneaks through a window. This person gets stabbed/beaten to death. Then someone else sneaks through a window. Then that person gets stabbed/beaten to death. Then someone ELSE sneaks through a window. Then THAT person gets stabbed/beaten to death." I'm not even exaggerating, it actually goes on longer than I'm making it sound. And those last sixty seconds, pee-you! Who the hell thought THAT was a fitting ending to the puzzle-box they'd set up here? It's as if they were trying to set up a cross between Vacancy and Die Hard for the overall film, but then went with the finish from a Final Destination movie.
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