Tag Archives: Kate Lyn Sheil

You’re Next (2011)

You're Next

Populated by the indie-horror regulars (AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Ti West, Amy Seimetz,) “You’re Next” is a fun romp centered around the blood-soaked fight between a well-to-do, dysfunctional family and a trio of masked psychos. Not that the family puts up much of a fight, for all their hysterics and high-pitched screams- it’s Erin (Sharny Vinson,) fiancé of son Crispian (AJ Bowen) that’s a force to be reckoned with.

Mom (Barbara Crampton)’s already on medication, how much more damage could a family reunion do? Plenty, as it turns out, but to be fair it’s not just the quarreling siblings who are causing her to fret when armed killers clad in animal masks crash the party. Their presence is not initially explained- why did they choose this family, over all the angst-ridden upper-class dorks in the world? The feuds within the family itself hold the answer.

It’s weird how the mindless, hysterical behavior of threatened individuals can seem annoying on the big screen, but are actually pretty accurate in the long run. You swear you would tough out a situation like a good little marine; when frankly it could be you or me who’s dragging others down with our hysterics when the shit hits the fan. You never know how you will react when you’ve got a gun in your face (or in this family’s case, a crossbow.)

Still, this family acts more than the reasonable amount of stupid when shit gets real. Bolt out of the house and outrun them? Bitch, there are three of them! Sheep Mask has a crossbow! Still, Erin levels out the stupid by being one of the most bad-ass little minxes of modern horror. She doesn’t fall to pieces when people start being killed, instead, she applies infinite focus to getting herself and others out alive.

I didn’t think this movie was as slow as other movies of it’s kind. Plus, the talky parts aren’t wasted, they develop the characters and their personal neuroses before the bloodbath starts. There are a few good jump scares, though they didn’t affect me as much the second time I watched it. I guess the reason I’m not giving the movie more than 3.5 stars is I think this premise had a lot of potential and could have been done a little better with even more character development.

There’s not as much humor as you might think from reading the hype about this movie, but it does contain a couple of pitch-black laughs. The twists and turns and the investment in Erin’s safety keep the suspense going strong. I guarantee you won’t be as invested in the other characters,  though their weakness and terror in the face of complete chaos is certainly understandable. Those who like wit rather than mediocrity in their slasher films should certainly enjoy this entertaining bloodbath.

urnext

The Sacrament (2013)

imagesCAUUZQJ0

I was a little skeptical about the prospect of actually enjoying this movie, because my only contact with filmmaker Ti West were his shorts in the utterly rubbish anthology films “The ABCS of Death” and “V/H/S.” Still, the premise and the trailer looked promising, so I watched it on Netflix Instant (thank God for streaming.) After seeing it twice in the last month, I have to say I am very impressed with what the director managed to do here. The build-up is slow-going to say the least, but there were extended periods in the movie where I was glued to the seat, simultaneously fascinated and unnerved by this rarity- a found footage film that seemed altogether too real and rang true as a horror movie with smarts, not just as gimmicky trash.

Journalists Sam (AJ Bowen) and Jake (Joe Swanberg) communicate with a fashion photographer named Patrick (Kentucker Audley, what a name!), who confides in them that his sister Caroline (Amy Seimetz,) who has a history of drug abuse and irresponsible behavior, has ‘found herself’ in a remote religious sect. Obviously curious about his strange story, the duo join Patrick to fly over to visit Caroline in ‘Eden Parish,’ a community that lies isolated in the jungle. Vowing to film their experiences and share it with Sam and Jake’s readers, the three men have no idea how much trouble they’re about to get themselves into.

This viewer found the acting to be surprisingly good for this kind of movie. AJ Bowen gave a good performance as Sam, an easy going good-guy who finds himself plunged into the heart of darkness. Amy Seimetz is creditable as Patrick’s ditzy sister, under whose cheery exterior lies a undercurrent of mania and confusion. But the actor who takes the cake as the most convincing and award-worthy is Gene Jones, who had a small part in the critically acclaimed “No Country for Old Men.” Here he plays the utterly appalling but charismatic cult leader ‘Father,” who has seemingly won the utter respect and admiration of the people of ‘Eden Parish.” Jones’ scene where ‘Father’ is interviewed by AJ Bowen’s ‘Sam’ is brilliant on so many levels, and both actors knock it out of the ballpark with that one conversation.

“The Sacrament” is heavily inspired by the Jonestown Massacre, and is made particularly potent by the realization that events like this mark our history. I remember seeing a TV program on David Koresh and wondering how so many people could be brainwashed by a douchebag whose obviously cuckoo for cocoa puffs. One of the things that stays with me is the last moments of the children the police were frantically trying to get out of the compound. The kids were calm and compliant moments before burning to death in the place that was both their home and their prison. Did things have to go down that way?

Chilling in its psychological and sociological implications, “The Sacrament” is a real breath of fresh air as both a modern horror movie and a found-footage scare film. Driven by a frightening performance by Gene Jones as a persuasive cult leader, this film ratchets up the intensity that comes with viewing a situation like this to a nearly unbearable level. It’s not for the faint of heart, and those who seek cheerier entertainment look elsewhere, but horror fans that seek smarts in modern horror should love it.

gene-jones-the-sacrament-01-350x164

V/H/S (2012)

Nothing to see here, ladies and gents. “V/H/S” is a appallingly bad and nauseatingly shot fright flick, marred by misogynist overtones and 0% (and I do mean %0) character development. The film is geared toward predominately male teenagers with short attention spans, sporting sickeningly schizoid cinematography and and gratuitous boobie shots (most of which are in sexually violent or exploitative context.)

In the core storyline, A group of miscreants break into a house after being hired to steal one videotape. We have no sympathy for these people- between their abusive treatment of women and their grating stupidity, we’re actually rooting against them. When they break in, they find a stack of V/H/S home movies… and a corpse. Unfazed by the body of an old man resting in an armchair, they begin to view the videotapes. Each one is a supposedly real horror short.

The first short in the anthology is by far the worst. A trio of horny and misogynistic friends set out to video tape one of the men’s sexual experience. The situation soon becomes rapey, as one girl is passed out drunk and another is an apparently addled femme fatale who is not what she seems. The acting in this short is pretty poor and the dialogue is worse.

Is it really necessary to drop the F bomb in every sentence? I mean, I love my expletives as much anybody else, but throwing it around willy-nilly makes you sound like a 13-year-old trying to be ‘edgy.’ The boys are disgusting pieces of work, but watching their well-deserved demise, satisfying as it might be, is not enough to save this terrible short.

The majority of these shorts are wretchedly bad to pretty mediocre, with the exception of one. Here’s a wonder- Ti West, who made one of the worst shorts in the similarly themed horror anthology “The ABC’s of Death”, also directs the segment that saves this movie from being a total disaster. “Second Honeymoon,” starring Joe Swanberg and Sopie Takal, is a surprising and competently acted short that kept me guessing throughout.

The short with the aliens had potential, but just left too many unanswered questions for my liking. The others were utter crap. The shaky cam gave me a headache and a stomachache. The dialogue was a string of childish obscenities. There was no depth to the characters. I have not seen a movie in a long time with a cast of characters I liked less. This movie is so, so bad. Avoid it like the plague.
Rating-
3.5/10