You’re Next

Invasion of the Body Dispatchers…You’re Next is a slick, at times mordantly funny, exercise in horror family dynamics. And it’s a home invasion film too, and what a home…

The Davison clan is having a family reunion in a massive Tudor mansion in the woods. Along for the ride is their significant others, including a smirking chainsmoker, Zee (with Uma Thurman’s haircut from Pulp Fiction), an Aussie teaching assistant, Erin, and a indie filmmaker Tariq to add some drama to a fracturing family. And the Davison matriarch is a WASPy Aubrey (scream queen legend Barbara Crampton) who can barely hold things together along with the religious pater familias, Paul.

The Davison boys pot-shot each other over career choices over the family dining table. Drake (the Tom Brady-styled successful one) lobbing thinly veiled insults masked as curiosity.

And speaking of masks, that’s when things get interesting: A group of 1, 2, possibly 3 men are lurking outside in animal disguises. With a spate of arrows cracking glass, the family is suddenly under siege (“siege” being the operative word as the mens’ weaponry* is positively medieval: crossbows)

In Indiewire writer Simon Barrett claims inspiration from being a “huge fan of the Agatha Christie novel The Ten Little Indians aka And Then There Were None, a piece of fiction that continually comes up in our Really Awful Movies Podcast discussions as a catchall for people trapped and being plucked off one at a time by a scrupulous, detail-oriented killer. And that’s doing You’re Next a bit of a disservice. Lots of time and effort is spent in becoming invested in the characters, always welcome in the horror milieu, and to the filmmakers’ credit, there are a few twists.

Aussie model Sharni Vinson’s Erin (pictured) is a bodacious and resourceful ass-kicker, carrying the show when things sag.

That being said, things seriously derail toward the end, with injuries sustained by the principals that would incapacitate the average Navy Seal, let alone a bunch of to-the-manor (literally) born twats like these people. Less is more is a dictum that’s seldom followed. And gore, like swearing, works best when it’s well-placed.

***1/4 (out of 5)

[*Editors’ note: You’re Next features a death-by-blender not included in our book, Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons…because we already had a blender write-up for the cheesy 80s horror, Pledge Night.]

New Year’s Evil

A hybrid of New York Ripper, Don’t Answer the Phone! and Black Christmas, New Year’s Evil combines the mouth-breather phone harassment elements of all three, with the time-sensitive release of the latter.

Yet another in a long line of calendar-dependent horror films (Mother’s Day, Hospital Massacre, aka, Be My Valentine, Or Else…, Halloween, Silent Night, Deadly Night) New Year’s Evil also tapped into the nascent New Wave music scene, and unlike some of its ridiculous brethren, actually acquits itself quite well as far as music is concerned. The title track is simply outstanding, with a drop-D tuning riff that could be Jimmy Page, that lilts into operatic Phantom of the Paradise territory.

So what if the film can’t strike the same musical chord, quality-wise.

The plot? Some sicko with mommy issues is hunting down the host of a New Year’s eve special, along with other victims, and killing them according to the stroke of midnight across multiple time-zones. That in of itself is a pretty nifty idea.

But unlike back-end loaded denouements, New Year’s Evil reveals its hand off the bat: we all see the killer (a young-ish looking Bruce Jenner-type). However, we don’t know WHO exactly he is or what his motivations are…

Since this is a Cannon Group production, New Year’s Evil supplies us with scenes that are so tonally off, they’d require a tuning fork. To wit: a bunch of mental patients getting down to the sounds of Shadow, the band ripping through New Year’s Evil, and the inmates all wearing straitjackets!

The kills are fairly pedestrian, but like Black Christmas there’s a pretty substantial plastic bag asphyxiation scene. And like New York Ripper and Don’t Answer the Phone!, the killer disguises his voice as he makes threatening calls.

Ultimately though, you’ll hang up on this one.

** (out of 5)

[Check out our New Year’s Evil podcast discussion!]