Horror Trailer: Pet Sematary


Pet Sematary

It looks like one of the advantages of It being such a success in the box-office in 2017 was the return of Stephen King film adaptations. It’s not just in the theaters that we’ve seen this latest run in Stephen King films, but on streaming services like Netflix (Gerald’s Game and 1922) and Hulu (Castle Rock series).

Now we have the first trailer for the remake of the Stephen King cult classic film Pet Sematary set to come out early April 2019. The film will star Jason Clarke in the role of Louis Creed with John Lithgow playing the role of Jud Crandall (a role made famous by the late, great Fred Gwynne).

One thing that the trailer has shown me that I approve of is the fact they finally cast the correct cat in the role of the Creed family’s beloved cat Church. The original film a Russian Blue was picked for the role when in the book it was a Maine Coon. From a quick glimpse in the trailer it looks like we’re getting a pissed off Maine Coon in the role of Church.

Horror Film Review: Alien: Convenant (dir by Ridley Scott)


Why did Alien: Covenant fail?

It’s a legitimate question.  Alien itself is such an iconic horror film that, 38 years after it was first released, blatant rip-offs like Life are still being produced and, in many case, are still doing pretty well at the box office.  When John Hurt died earlier this year, he left behind a long and distinguished filmography but almost every obituary opened by discussing his role in Alien.  

Alien: Convenant received a good deal of pre-release publicity, mostly centering on the fact that Ridley Scott was not only the filming the latest installment of the franchise but that this was going to be a true Alien film, as opposed to a strange hybrid like Prometheus.  Personally, when I first saw the trailer, I thought it looked like something was a little off about it.  The spaceship looked way too clean and, for that matter, so did all the humans.  Whereas Alien and Aliens were all about sweaty, profane men and women stuck in dark and cramped locations, the humans in Alien: Convenant just looked too damn perky.  In at least one of the trailers, they were all smiling.  No one smiles in space, at least not in an Alien movie.  Still, everyone else seemed to be super excited about the trailer so I figured that maybe I was just being overly critical.

Then the movie came out.  It got some respectful but somewhat restrained reviews, though it did seem like quite a few critics were more interested in praising the longevity of the series as opposed to actually talking about the film itself.  At the box office, it performed a bit below expectations during the first week but then again, that’s pretty much been the story for almost every film that’s been released in 2017.  But then, during the second week, it plunged from being the number one movie in America to being the number four movie in America.  In the third week, it plunged again and, in the fourth week, it left first-run theaters and headed for the dollar cinemas.  When a widely anticipated film like that — especially one that is part of a historically popular franchise — heads to purgatory after only four weeks, the only thing you can blame is word of mouth.

Why did Alien: Covenant fail?

Well, there’s several reasons why this film failed to connect with audiences.

First off, the plot is rather familiar.  In the future, the crew of a spaceship picks up a radio transmission for a nearby planet and the captain (played, in this case, by Billy Crudup) sends down an expedition to investigate.  Of course, it turns out that the planet is full of facehuggers and xenomorphs and all the other stuff that audiences typically expect from an Alien film.  Also on the planet is David (Michael Fassbender), the replicant who is the sole survivor from Prometheus.  (Fassbender actually plays two roles in Covenant.  He also plays Walter, another replicant.  One is bad and one is good.)  Basically, Covenant takes the plots of Alien and Aliens and mashes them together.  But it never answers the question of why audiences wouldn’t be better off just watching the originals.

The humans themselves are rather blandly written and somewhat interchangeable.  There’s no one who is memorably quirky like Bill Paxton or Harry Dean Stanton.  Katherine Waterston makes for a bland substitute for both Sigourney Weaver and Noomi Rapace.  Usually, I like Danny McBride but he seems out of place in an Alien film.  Genuinely interesting actors, like James Franco, Amy Seimetz, and Carmen Ejogo, are all dispatched far too early.  Probably the best performance in the film comes from Michael Fassbender but, for anyone who has any knowledge of what usually happens with replicants in the Alien franchise, there’s no surprises to be found in either of his characters.

But ultimately, the main problem with Alien: Covenant is that it just wasn’t scary.  Some might say that this is due to the fact that we’re no longer shocked by the sight of aliens bursting out of people’s chests.  However, I recently watched Alien.  I watched it with the full knowledge that, as soon as John Hurt sat down to eat, that little bugger was going to burst out of his chest and that blood and bones were going to fly everywhere.  I also knew that Harry Dean Stanton was going to end up walking right underneath the alien.  I knew that Tom Skerritt’s radio was going to go dead.  I knew that the alien would be waiting for Sigourney Weaver in the escape pod.  I knew all of this and Alien still scared the Hell out of me, as it has every time that I’ve watched it.

And I also had the same reaction when I recently watched Aliens.  Yes, I knew that the space marines weren’t going to be able to fight the aliens.  I knew what was going to happen to Paul Reiser.  I knew that Bill Paxton was going to end up chanting, “Game over, man!”  I knew that aliens were going to be bursting off of chests all over the place.  I knew it was all going to happen and yet, turning out all the lights and watching Aliens still left me feeling shaken.

The difference between those two films and Alien: Covenant is that the first two films felt authentic.  The ships felt lived in.  The characters felt real.  Both films were full of rough edges and small details that invited you to try to look closer.  You could watch those films and imagine yourself on those ships and talking to those characters.  You got scared because you knew that there was no way you’d be one of the survivors.  Everyone pretends that they would be Sigourney Weaver but most of us know that, in reality, we’re going to be Veronica Cartwright, sobbing and useless.

Alien: Covenant, on the other hand, is a very slick movie.  Nothing about it feels real and there’s no real emotional impact when the aliens show up and start killing people.  You never feel as if you know the characters, beyond whatever feelings you may have toward the actors involved.  “Oh,” you say, “the alien just burst out of Billy Crudup’s chest.  Well, he’s got another movie coming out so he’ll be fine…”

For all of the technical skill that went into making it, Alien: Covenant has no soul.  And, for that reason, it’s never scary.  (Sadly, Life felt like a better Alien movie than Covenant did.)  Hopefully, if there is another Alien film, that soul will be rediscovered.

Review: The Girlfriend Experience


The Girlfriend Experience

In 2009, Steven Soderbergh released a little independent film called The Girlfriend Experience starring, who at that time, was one of the adult industry’s biggest stars in Sasha Grey. The film explored and dealt with the life of a high-class escort by the name of Chelsea as she navigated the world of powerful men and the effect of money in monetizing something as intimate and personal as being someone’s girlfriend. It wasn’t a film that had many supporters. Most saw the inexperience of Sasha Grey as a dramatic actress hamstringing what was an interesting look at the dual themes of sex and capitalism.

It’s now 2016 and the premium cable channel Starz has released a new dramatic series inspired by the very same Soderbergh film mentioned above, but not beholden to it’s characters and storyline. Where Sasha Grey’s character of Chelsea seemed more like an on-screen cipher the audience was suppose to imprint whatever their expectations onto, this series has a more traditional narrative of a young woman whose attempt to balance in her life a burgeoning career in law (she’s just earned an internship at a prestigious Chicago law firm) with her discovery of her inherent sexuality while dipping her toes into the high-end sex-workers trade of the so-called “girlfriend experience.”

Riley Keough (last seen as the Citadel wife Capable who both romanced and mothers Nicholas Hoult’s War Boy Nux) plays Christine Reade as a struggling law firm intern who has worked hard to get where she’s at and continues to do so both as an intern and as a continuing law student. Yet, she also has the same problems many young people the past couple decades have had when it comes to earning their degrees. Debt has become a major issue and finding ways to make ends meet while still holding onto their dream profession becomes more and more difficult. Christine, at the encouragement of a close friend (played by Kate Lyn Sheil), tries her hand at becoming a high-price escort.

Girlfriend Experience 01

Just like the film it’s loosely based on, the series tries in the beginning to paint the high-priced escort profession that Christine gets herself into as very glamorous. Christine’s clients are white men who are older, rich and powerful. Men whose own interpersonal relationships with those close to them have been left behind in their quest for power. They see in Christine a sort of commodity to help fill in a need missing in their life even if false and just a transactional role-play experience.

Showrunners Amy Seimetz (who plays Christine’s sister Annabel) and Lodge Kerrigan (independent filmmakers and writers of renown) have created a show that explores not just the dual nature of how sex has become just another commodity in a world that’s becoming more and more capitalistic, but also a show that explores the nature of a professional woman in a world where they’re told that in order to fit in with the “men” they must suppress their sexual side. It’s a series that doesn’t hold back it’s punches in showing how the patriarchal nature of the professional world (it could be law, business, Hollywood, etc.) makes it difficult for women like Christine to try and be a successful professional and still retain their sexual nature. It’s a world up-ended and shown it’s cruel and ugly nature by Christine with every new client she meets and entertains.

The show and it’s writers (both of whom took turns directing each of the 13-episodes of the first season) don’t pass any sort of judgement on Christine’s choice of working as a high-paid escort. This series doesn’t look at these sex-workers as beneath what normal society expects of it’s women, both young and old. They instead want to explore the why’s of their decision to enter into such a career even if it means hampering their initial chosen profession. They’ve come up with some intriguing ideas of this world of escorts and powerful men walking through their lives always pretending to be one thing then another. A world where half-lies and made up personas have say much about the true natures of each individual as it does of the world around them.

Girlfriend Experience 02

Christine enters this world of becoming a “girlfriend experience” as a rebellious, adventurous lark, but finds out that her keen, observant and adaptable mind which has served her well in her rise as a law student and intern also serves her well in her new side-career. While her friend Avery who first introduces her to the world sees it all as a rush and exhilarating experience to be done here and there, Christine finds herself drawn deeper into the world as she goes from being represented to finally going off on her own as a freelancer. She’s her own boss and she controls what goes on with this new life.

Yet, The Girlfriend Experience is not all about the glass and steel, cold and calculating glamour of Christine’s new world. Just as she’s reached the heights of her new found power over the very system which tells her what she can and cannot be, outside forces that she thought was in her control brings her back to the reality of her choices throughout the first half of the series. For all the money, power and control she has achieved her old world as a law student and intern begins to fall apart as it intersects with her new one. It’s to the writers credit that they don’t give Christine any easy outs, but do allow her character to decide for herself how to get through both her professional and personal crisis.

While both showrunners Seimetz and Kerrigan have much to do with the brilliance of The Girlfriend Experience it all still hinges on the performance of it’s lead in Riley Keough. She’s practically in every scene and she grows as a performer right before out eyes. From the moment we see her we’re instantly drawn to her character. Hair up in an innocent ponytail and dressed very conservatively as she starts her internship, we still sense more to her character and we’re rewarded with each new episode as Keough’s performance with not just her acting both verbal and silent. Whether it’s the subtle changes in her expression as she transitions from an attentive “girlfriend”, supportive “confidant” and then to a calculating and all-business “escort” and all in a span of a brief scene.

Girlfriend Experience 03

Even the scenes where some audience may find titillating (even for premium cable like Starz, the sex in The Girlfriend Experience are quite eye-opening without being exploitative.), Keough manages to convey her true feelings with her eyes, while her body language convinces her latest client that it’s all real. She’s able to slip into whatever fantasy her client pays for and, in the end, whatever fantasy she wants to insert herself into in order to escape the terrible reality which has hardened and prepared her for the “real world” that all young people in college aspire to join.

The Girlfriend Experience might have been born out of an cinematic experiment by the icon of independent filmmaking, but it more than stands on it’s own take on ideas and themes (while adding and introducing some of their own) that Soderbergh tried to explore. With Sasha Grey’s performance as Chelsea proving to be a divisive reason whether Soderbergh’s film was a success or a failure, with Seimetz and Kerrigan they found in Riley Keough’s performance as Christine Reade a protagonist that engenders not just sympathy but at times frustration. Her Christine Reade doesn’t conform to what society thinks women should be when out and about in public and, for some men, when in private, as well.

The same could be said about this series as it doesn’t fit into any particular narrative and thematic box that we as a viewer have become trained to. It’s both a series exploring the existential idea of sexual identity and the commodifying power that capitalism has had on things intimate and personal. It’s also a series about a young woman’s journey of self-discovery that doesn’t just highlight the high’s but also shows how precipitous the fall can and will be when the traditionalists object. The show also performs well as a thriller due to the exceptional score composed by another brilliant indie-filmmaker. You may know him under the name of Shane Carruth.

The Girlfriend Experience doesn’t have the pulp sensibilities of such shows as The Walking Dead or the rabid following of Game of Thrones, but as of 2016 it’s probably the best new show of the year and here’s to hoping that more people discover it’s brilliance before it goes away.

Netflix Halloween 2014 : “You’re Next”


youre_next

Okay, so here’s the deal : over at my “main” site — http://trashfilmguru.wordpress.com , for those up you not aware — I’m spending the month of October looking at various horror flicks currently available in Netflix’s instant streaming queue. So far there have been some semi-winners, some semi-losers, and some real clunkers, but I promised myself that if I ever found one that was an absolute, indisputable home run, I’d write about here on TTSL and thereby hopefully spread the word about it a bit father and wider than a post on my blog alone would accomplish. I’m pleased to say I’ve found just such a film.

I’m not sure why or how I missed “splat back”/”mumblegore” director Adam Wingard’s 2011 offering, You’re Next, when it hit theaters — I certainly found the ads for it intriguing and meant to go check it out, but I never did. My loss — but not anymore, since I finally caught it the other night and damn, was I impressed.

Seriously, this has everything you want in a horror movie : an involving premise, a few characters you want to see live, even more you’d love to see die, plenty of first-rate gore, suspense, intrigue, and all kinds of ass-kicking. You might ask for more, I suppose,  if you’re picky, but come on — how often do you get it?

yn2

 

Anyway, friends, you know how it goes — you’re gathered together for a family reunion full of not-so-subtle tension and disdain (think the kind of situation where everyone would be stabbing each other in the back, except for the fact that they’re doing it out in the open), when suddenly assailants in animal masks armed with crossbows start firing away and, presto! Next thing you know, you’re all under siege and fighting for your lives.

What? That’s never happened to you? Well, it’s what happens to the family here (who, curiously enough, are never given a last name), a very well-heeled clan who have gathered at their family’s palatial “summer estate” to celebrate their mother and father’s 35th wedding anniversary. Roll call : there’s struggling- academic brother Crispian (AJ Bowen) and his Aussie girlfriend, Erin (Sharni Vison); douchebag brother Drake (Joe Swanberg) and his wife, Kelly (Sarah Myers); younger douchebag brother Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and his emo/goth “squeeze,” Zee (Wendy Glenn); darling baby sister Aimee (Amy Seimetz);  and presiding over the whole houseful of ungrateful, self-centered whelps we have dad Paul (Rob Moran) and mom Aubrey (the still-drop-dead-gorgeous Barbara Crampton). We get to know each of these characters just enough to give the first half-hour or so a strong dose of Woody Allen-esque upper-class dysfunction when the shit starts hitting the fan.

youre_next_1_20130307_1024062482

 

And when it hits, boy does it ever. Aside from the mere fact that it’s gleeful fun (well, at least for me) to see members of the 1% finally get what’s coming to them,  Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett are to be commended for not taking their collective foot off the gas pedal until the end credits are rolling, and while we quickly learn that only Erin has the smarts and guts to survive the situation thanks to her weird survivalist upbringing in the Outback, the other character revelations along the way come in measured steps and and at just the right points (usually as a means of breaking up what would otherwise be a non-stop  series of creatively brutal slayings). Still, you probably won’t see the end coming, simply because you’ll figure you’ve got the whole thing sussed out already — even though, trust me, you don’t.

youre-next

To be completely fair, I do have some relatively minor gripes with said ending — I think there was a way Wingard could have made it even more shocking, but shit, I’m not gonna complain. The conclusion he serves up is still a doozy even if it’s not exactly the one I would have gone for. If I think I’m so fucking good at this kind of thing, then maybe I should just go and direct my own movie, right?

Add in fun little cameos from the likes of fellow “new horror” icon Ti West and some wink-and-nudge homages to other genre classics, throw in a throbbing musical score that’s more than just a bit reminiscent of Goblin (hold your horses, I’m not saying it’s as good as Goblin, only that it’s stylistically similar to their justly- legendary efforts), keep the blood flowing, and you’ve got a recipe for a sure winner. Whatever you’re doing right now can wait — if you’ve got a Netflix subscription, You’re Next deserves your immediate attention.

 

 

What If Lisa Marie Picked The Oscar Nominees…


With the Oscar nominations due to be announced this week, now is the time that the Shattered Lens indulges in a little something called, “What if Lisa had all the power.” Listed below are my personal Oscar nominations.  Please note that these are not the films that I necessarily think will be nominated.  The fact of the matter is that the many of them will not.  Instead, these are the films that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for deciding the nominees this year.  Winners are listed in bold.

You can check out my picks for 2010 by clicking here.

My picks for 2011 can be found here.

And, finally, here are my picks for 2012.

Best Picture

Best Picture

12 Years A Slave

American Hustle

Before Midnight

Blue Is The Warmest Color

Frances Ha

Fruitvale Station

Her

Inside Llewyn Davis

Spring Breakers

Upstream Color

Shane+Carruth+Upstream+Color+Portraits+2013+DRHrpQS3Qacx

Best Director

Noah Baumbach for Frances Ha

Shane Carruth for Upstream Color

Spike Jonze for Her

Harmony Korine for Spring Breakers

David O. Russell for American Hustle

new-wolf-of-wall-street-trailer-leonardo-dicaprio-is-the-wealthiest-stockbroker-in-the-world

Best Actor

Bruce Dern in Nebraska

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf Of Wall Street

Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club

Joaquin Phoenix in Her

Dennis Quaid in At Any Price

This-one-is-good

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine

Julie Delpy in Before Midnight

Adèle Exarchopoulos in Blue Is The Warmest Color

Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha

Amy Seimetz in Upstream Color

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Best Supporting Actor

Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips

Kyle Chandler in The Spectacular Now

Bradley Cooper in American Hustle

James Franco in Spring Breakers

Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club

1380134395_Lawrence

Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle

Eva Mendes in The Place Beyond The Pines

Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years A Slave

Léa Seydoux in Blue Is The Warmest Color

Octavia Spencer in Fruitvale Station

Her

Best Original Screenplay

American Hustle

Blue Jasmine

Her

Inside Llewyn Davis

Upstream Color

Before-Midnight

Best Adapted Screenplay

12 Years A Slave

Before Midnight

Blue Is The Warmest Color

The Spectacular Now

The Wolf of Wall Street

November 1st, 2013 @ 20:49:52

Best Animated Feature

The Croods

Despicable Me 2

Ernest and Celestine

Frozen

Monsters University

STORIES-WE-TELL---SP-with-Super8cam-flatsc.JPG

Best Documentary Feature

20 Feet From Stardom

The Armstrong Lie

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

Stories We Tell

Tim’s Vermeer

Blue-is-the-Warmest-Color

Best Foreign Language Film

(Please note that I do things differently for this category than the Academy.   For this award, I am nominating the best foreign language films to be released in the United States in 2013.)

Beyond the Hills

Blue Is The Warmest Color

No

Renoir

White Elephant

The Great Gatsby1

Best Production Design

12 Years A Slave

Gravity

The Great Gatsby

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Oz: The Great and Powerful

Spring Breakers

Best Cinematography

Frances Ha

Inside Llewyn Davis

Nebraska

Spring Breakers

Upstream Color

American Hustle

Best Costume Design

12 Years A Slave

American Hustle

The Copperhead

The Great Gatsby

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Upstream Color

Best Film Editing

12 Years A Slave

American Hustle

Gravity

Her

Upstream Color

American Hustle 2

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

12 Years A Slave

American Hustle

Dallas Buyers Club

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Warm Bodies

Maniac

Best Original Score

Gravity

Her

Maniac

Trance

Upstream Color

The Great Gatsby2

Best Original Song

“Let it Go” from Frozen

“A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)” from The Great Gatsby

“Young and Beautiful” from The Great Gatsby

“The Moon Song” from Her

“I See Fire” from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

“Atlas” from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

“Please Mr. Kennedy” from Inside Llewyn Davis

“So You Know What It’s Like” from Short Term 12

“Becomes The Color” from Stoker

“Here It Comes” from Trance

Iron Man 3

Best Sound Editing

All Is Lost

Iron Man 3

Pacific Rim

Rush

Upstream Color

Pacific Rim

Best Sound Mixing

All Is Lost

Iron Man 3

Pacific Rim

Rush

Upstream Color

Gravity

Best Visual Effects

Gravity

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Iron Man 3

Oz: The Great and Powerful

Pacific Rim

List of Films By Number of Nominations:

9 Nominations — Upstream Color

8 Nominations — American Hustle

7 Nominations — 12 Years A Slave, Her

5 Nominations — Blue Is The Warmest Color

4 Nominations — Frances Ha, Gravity, The Great Gatsby, Inside Llewyn Davis, Spring Breakers

3 Nominations — Before Midnight, Dallas Buyers Club, Iron Man 3, Pacific Rim

2 Nominations — All Is Lost, Blue Jasmine, Frozen, Fruitvale Station, Nebraska, Oz The Great and Powerful, Rush, The Spectacular Now, Trance, The Wolf of Wall Street

1 Nominations — 20 Feet From Stardom, The Armstrong Lie, At Any Price, Beyond The Hills, Captain Phillips, The Copperhead, The Counselor, The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest and Celestine, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Maniac, Monsters University, No, The Place Beyond The Pines, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, Renoir, Short Term 12, Stoker, Stories We Tell, Tim’s Vermeer, Warm Bodies, White Elephant

List of Films By Number of Oscars Won

3 Oscars — American Hustle, Upstream Color

2 Oscars — The Great Gatsby

1 Oscar — Before Midnight, Blue is The Warmest Color, Frances Ha, Frozen, Gravity, Her, Iron Man 3, Maniac, Pacific Rim, The Spectacular Now, Spring Breakers, Stories We Tell, The Wolf of Wall Street

The Oscar Season Begins With The Gotham Nominations!


UpstreamColor_KrisJeffEscalator_3000x1277

Can you guess what my favorite time of year is?

If you guessed November, you’re right!  My birthday is on November 9th, our own Dazzling Erin’s birthday is on November 24th, and then Arleigh’s birthday is on November 27th!  November is a big month here at the Shattered Lens.

My second favorite time of year?  October, of course!  How can you go wrong with so much horror?

And then, of course, my third favorite time of year is December because that’s when I get most of my presents.

Along with being my favorite three months of the year, another thing that all three of those months have in common is that they comprise what is known as Oscar Season.  Oscar Season is the period of time when the majority of the Best Picture contenders are released and all of the critic groups give out their awards in the hope of influencing the Academy’s nominations.  I love movies and I love awards so how can I not love Oscar Season?

Well, I’m happy to say that Oscar Season officially began earlier today when the nominations for the 23rd annual Gotham Independent Film Awards were announced.  The Gotham nominations aren’t exactly the best precursor of what’s going to be nominated in January but, nonetheless, they usually manage to include at least a few legitimate contenders.

This year, for example, Oscar front-runner 12 Years A Slave managed to collect the most Gotham nominations.  Personally, I’m just happy to see that my favorite film of 2013, Upstream Color, collected two nominations.

The Gothams will be awarded on December 2nd.

Here are the nominations:

Best Feature

12 Years a Slave

Steve McQueen, director; Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Bill Pohlad, Steve McQueen, Arnon Milchan, Anthony Katagas, producers. (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

David Lowery, director; Tony Halbrooks, James M. Johnston, Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen, Amy Kaufman, Cassian Elwes, producers (IFC Films)

Before Midnight

Richard Linklater, director; Richard Linklater, Christos V. Konstantakopoulos, Sara Woodhatch, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)

Inside Llewyn Davis

Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, directors; Scott Rudin, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, producers (CBS Films)

Upstream Color

Shane Carruth, director; Shane Carruth, Casey Gooden, Ben LeClair, producers. (erbp)

 

Best Documentary

The Act of Killing

Joshua Oppenheimer, director; Signe Byrge, Joshua Oppenheimer, producers (Drafthouse Films)

The Crash Reel

Lucy Walker, director; Julian Cautherly, Lucy Walker, producers (HBO Documentary Films)

First Cousin Once Removed

Alan Berliner, director and producer (HBO Documentary Films)

Let the Fire Burn

Jason Osder, director and producer (Zeitgeist Films)

Our Nixon

Penny Lane, director; Brian L. Frye, Penny Lane, producers (Cinedigm and CNN Films)

 

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award

Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station (The Weinstein Company)

Adam Leon for Gimme the Loot (Sundance Selects)

Alexandre Moors for Blue Caprice (Sundance Selects)

Stacie Passon for Concussion (RADiUS-TWC)

Amy Seimetz for Sun Don’t Shine (Factory 25)

 

Best Actor

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis (CBS Films)

Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club (Focus Features)

Robert Redford in All Is Lost (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)

Isaiah Washington in Blue Caprice (Sundance Selects)

 

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine (Sony Pictures Classics)

Scarlett Johansson in Don Jon (Relativity Media)

Brie Larson in Short Term 12 (Cinedigm)

Amy Seimetz in Upstream Color (erbp)

Shailene Woodley in The Spectacular Now (A24)

 

Breakthrough Actor

Dane DeHaan in Kill Your Darlings (Sony Pictures Classics)

Kathryn Hahn in Afternoon Delight (The Film Arcade and Cinedigm)

Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station (The Weinstein Company)

Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Robin Weigert in Concussion (RADiUS-TWC)

5-17-13-Upstream-Color

Film Review: You’re Next (dir by Adam Wingard)


If Luis Buñuel had ever made a slasher film, it would probably have been a lot like You’re Next.

You’re Next tells the story of the ill-fated Davison clan.  Paul (Rob Moran) has recently retired from his job as a defense contractor and now, he and his wife, Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) are looking forward to celebrating their anniversary at their isolated vacation home.  Soon after they arrive at the house, Aubrey is convinced that she can hear someone else in the house.  However, since the frail Aubrey is obviously emotionally unstable, Paul dismisses her concerns.

Over the course of the day, Paul and Aubrey’s children arrive at the house.  Though, in the best tradition of all troubled families, the Davisons attempt to maintain a facade of peace and harmony, it quickly becomes clear that each member of the family is dealing with his or her own issues and petty jealousies.

For instance, oldest son Drake (Joe Swanberg) obviously feels that he’s superior to his siblings.  His wife, Kelly (Margaret Laney), is just as obviously unhappy with their marriage.

Crispian (A.J. Bowen) is a neurotic academic who is struggling financially and is viewed as being a weakling by the rest of his family.  His girlfriend, Erin (Sharni Vinson) has a secret in her past that will become unexpectedly important as the day progresses.

Daughter Aimee (played by Amy Seimetz, who was so good earlier this year in Upstream Color) tries so hard to be cheerful that you know that she has to be secretly be on the verge of having a nervous breakdown.  Her boyfriend, Tariq (Ti West), is a struggling filmmaker who is scandalized to discover that Drake prefers to watch commercials as opposed to documentaries.

Finally, there’s the youngest son, Felix (Nicholas Tucci).  Felix appears to be the most well-adjusted of all of the Davison children but his quiet girlfriend Zee (Wendy Glenn) is a different story.

Once the family has gathered together for the anniversary dinner, the bickering begins.  What the family don’t realize is that a group of men (all of whom wear animal masks) have previously slaughtered the neighbors and have now surrounded the Davison house.  The bickering is interrupted by a brutal attack that leaves one dead, one seriously injured, and the rest of the family fighting for their lives.

You’re Next starts out as an effective but rather standard home invasion film (think of The Strangers or even Michael Haneke’s Funny Games) but the film features two twists which set it apart.

The first twist is that Erin turns out to be as effective and determined a killer as the men laying siege to the house.  I’ve sat through a lot of horror movies and I love movies where women get to kick ass and I can tell you, without fear of contradiction, that there’s probably no other horror heroine who kicks as much ass as Erin.  As played by Sharni Vinson, Erin is destined to become an iconic character in the history of horror.

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The other twist is one that I can’t tell you about because it’s this twist that literally turns the entire film upside down.  What I can tell you is that this twist forces you to reconsider everything that you’ve seen up until that point.  Most impressively, director Adam Wingard reveals this twist to us long before he reveals it to the film’s characters.  As such, just when the viewer is getting used to the idea of You’re Next being just another home invasion film, a whole new element of suspense is added to the story.

Some reviewers have referred to You’re Next as being a comedy.  I disagree, if just because the film’s violence is too brutal and the gore is too graphic for this film to be considered anything other than primarily a horror film.  That said, there is a strain of dark humor that runs through the film and occasionally provides a much needed relief from the nonstop tension onscreen.  A good deal of the film’s humor comes from just how incredibly screwed-up the Davison family is, even before they find themselves under attack.  This is a family of people who, even while they’re trying to plot their escape from the house, can not resist getting into argument about who can run the fastest.

Ultimately, You’re Next works as both a brutally effective horror film and as a satirical portrait of an All-American family that’s secretly so dysfunctional that — even if they weren’t being attacked by masked men with crossbows — they probably would have eventually ended up killing each other anyway.  It’s a genre film that manages to transcend the rules of genre even while embracing them.  In a year that, so far, has been dominated by surprisingly intelligent and effective horror films, You’re Next is one of the best.

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