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Low budget no excuse for failure of 'You're Next'

Aug. 30, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

It only takes about 60 seconds of watching the second scene of this movie, before you realize that you have made a big mistake. The scene opens and you get to see some of the worst acting ever.

Granted, this is a low budget, no-name cast, filming in the middle of Missouri, but.... come on!!!

Director Adam Wingard ("Pop Skull," "Autoerotic," "What Fun We Were Having") is virtually unknown, as is the entire cast. And, there is definitely a reason.

For my description of the cast, I will say, "starring Sharni Vinson ("Home & Away," "Step Up 3D," "Bait") and everybody else." Because, not only is she the main player that the entire movie centers around, but she is the only one who can (almost) act.

And that is weird, because, apparently most of the rest of the cast are indie horror directors (hey, guys, don't quit your day jobs). You would think that those who direct actors for a living would know how to act.

I would blame it on the writer, except that usually, when a movie is poorly written, at least one (usually several) actors can rise above the material, and turn in a good performance. Not here...

The acting is atrocious. Even in this era of independent films and movies like "The Blair Witch Project," you would think that a producer could find qualified thespians who were anxious to appear on screen, even in a stinker.

Another noticeable (OK, annoying) aspect is the jerking of the handheld camera during the close up scenes. Herky-jerky may work well in the action scenes (not a fan), but during conversational filming, find a tripod.

The movie has a somewhat interesting (though familiar) premise, although the scenery is a wee bit off kilter (a large Tudor style home, with little to no security features?); and the step-by-step-by-step plotline is so predictable, it seems at times to be "Scary Movie" without the humor.

The potential is here, as Hollywood, for many years, has had an on-again/off-again affair with the home invasion movie plot, with films as varied as this year's "The Purge," the 2008 sleeper hit. "The Strangers," and the top quality "Panic Room" (2002), to the Old School classics like "Wait Until Dark" (1967) with Audrey Hepburn and, a personal favorite of mine, "Lady in a Cage" (1964), with a fantastic performance by Olivia DeHavilland and a very young James Caan.

But, somewhere along this movie's line, the director mated "Straw Dogs" with "Scream." I think the kicker comes when (spoiler alert, here) one character is killed with a blender.

The humorous spots aren't even all that funny, because the movie takes itself seriously. All of the standard horror movie "don't look in the basement," "NEVER turn your back on the monster you just killed," "don't put your eyeball against a hole in anything" moments are there, in theory, but the director seems to just want to show the elimination of each character, not add a prelude of terror.

Erin (the protagonist) turns from cute, innocent girlfriend, into an experienced killing machine, as unaffected by the violence as any Schwarzenegger commando or Stallone super cop. How did THAT happen?

The answer is not ex-CIA or former Marine, but something absolutely lame. An opportunity missed, to say the least.

The movie does get better as it goes along, the first third being almost unwatchable, while the middle is pitiful, and the final 20 minutes is predictable, but fun to watch. But, that's like, on a scale of one to ten, 1-3-6...

This movie got pretty high marks from other critics, so maybe I missed something, although my old-school standards still rate things by solid age-old criteria, but then again, I personally think that "OMG" should always be spelled out, fully...

Billy Summers is a freelance photographer who also reviews films for the Putnam Herald. He can be reached at summers855@yahoo.com.