You’re Next (2013), directed by Adam Wingard
Blue Jasmine (2013), directed by Woody Allen
It’s been a while since I’ve done a proper Tuesday Double-shot Review, so I’m glad to be back in the swing of things here. In case you’re not familiar with the concept: two movies, one cheap night at the cinemas, some smuggled in outside food. Pretty basic.
First on the list yesterday was catching up with horror film phenom You’re Next. It seems like lately there’s been this pattern of a horror movie getting huge buzz on the festival circuit and eventually getting a wide, much talked about release. Last year I guess it was the genre-bending Cabin in the Woods. Earlier this year we had the The Evil Dead remake, Evil Dead.
Right now, and for the past couple of years really, buzz is surrounding You’re Next like flies around a corpse. It played to some huge excitement at a couple of festivals in 2011 and for whatever reason hadn’t managed to be distributed since, despite the niche notoriety. Well, now it’s here and we horror lovers can decide for ourselves.
This is a cabin in the woods horror movie, even if it is a really nice cabin. A family is having a little reunion at the parent’s beautiful house in the country. Brothers, sisters, boyfriends, wives…that sort of thing. There’s some tension, some hugs, some arguments. And then, of course, some people in animal masks show up and start picking them off one by one.
Ugh. Family reunions, amiright?
What’s unique about You’re Next, which isn’t abundantly clear from the start, is that it consciously works to turn around many of the cliches of the genre people who don’t actually like horror movies complain about; chiefly the way seemingly smart characters turn into mindless nitwits the moment the going gets tough, especially the women.
The fact that (SPOILERS, of course) Erin turns out to be a killing machine herself is the joy of the film. We all go to slasher movies to see good kills, we all secretly or not so secretly root for the killers, so You’re Next turns out to be a whole lot of fun because in this one we can root for the killer AND feel good about it.
Sick? Sure. Enjoyable? Absolutely.
The way Wingard sets the whole thing up is great, with some cardboard acting and typical cabin in the woods type buildup. Erin is this bubbly, fun Aussie woman who you just know is going to scream a whole lot and either die at the end or somehow manage to escape, likely through luck. This is what Wingard wants.
So it’s great to watch that setup unravel and have the true nature of the film slowly come to light. By the end most everyone watching (who can stand the gore) will likely be cheering and having a good old horror movie time. I know I did.
I have a couple of minor, nitpick squabbles. For one: the axe. If Erin is as resourceful as she is supposed to be she would have picked up that damn axe. She had at least two chances. So that bugged me because it made no sense. Normally I wouldn’t care, especially in a slasher movie, but because the film goes to such lengths to establish the spacial aspects of the location, and the items in it, this error was incredibly obvious and distracting.
The end also doesn’t entirely work. I get we needed to see that axe fall on someone, but it played no importance to the story to have it hit the cop. It comes off as gimmicky. Have it hit the boyfriend, great ending.
Otherwise, You’re Next is a whole lot of good times. If you go for that sort of thing. Again, I do.
Blue Jasmine is a rather different movie, but is another one which worked for me for the most part, but never astonished me.
Allen, in serious, behind-the-camera mode, brings the globetrotting phase of his career to San Francisco in this one, to tell the story of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown thanks to the illegal financial dealings of her husband, which have left her alone, broke and broken.
I’m a huge Woody fan (heh) it must be said, and so can’t help approach his films in relation to his career. Many of his films suffer merely because they aren’t as good as others on his resume. This isn’t a standout Allen joint, in my occasionally humble opinion, though there is greatness in it.
Blue Jasmine is great because of Cate Blanchett’s performance, and not entirely much else. The story is fine, some of the other characters have charm or some uniqueness, but this is principally a character study of Blanchett’s Jasmine’s broken psyche.
Blanchett is fabulous. She has the not so easy task of playing a woman who could react to any situation any number of ways at any time. She is a classy lady, but one who clearly comes from, and has recently returned to, a situation not quite so refined. So there is a fish out of water element, but she also must play the obvious emotional and mental problems without over performing them or having them take over the character.
She handles it all marvelously. By the end of the movie her vacant stare is devastating.
Allen handles the character, both as a writer and as a director, with exceptional skill, never manhandling the characters traits behind the camera (not something Woody often does), but letting them be revealed through this magnificent performance he is conducting.
To me, though, the rest of the movie doesn’t live up. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but I never for a second cared about her sister or her partners or even the flashbacks half as much as I cared about Blanchett’s present predicament. I just wanted to watch her interact with people, and luckily much of the film is devoted to this. That which isn’t, however, doesn’t hold up.
It’s not a great movie, because one brilliant performance, one great character, does not a movie make. The storyline is almost like background music, and by the end I walked away without that wonderful feeling of having had an entirely whole experience from a movie, a feeling Allen has managed to evoke in me many times over.
So there we have it, two films, both great in ways, hampered in others, and really, totally, completely different from one another in every way. What a wild, crazy Tuesday it was. The end.
You’re Next and Blue Jasmine are in cinemas now.