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Face-Off: The Strangers vs. You're Next

03.13.2018by: Matt Rooney

Welcome back, seekers of dread! Last week was a heated battle of the Bond films with SKYFALL narrowly winning the crown. This week we have an even bloodier bout for you, and this one comes fit with butcher knives, crossbows, axes, shards of glass stuck in legs and all manner of deadly weapons. It's the battle of the home invasion horror filcks with THE STRANGERS vs. YOU'RE NEXT.

This competition comes on the heels of the sequel to THE STRANGERS, THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT, which opened last Friday. The original movie was met with lukewarm reviews but made a nice chunk of change at the box office, making one wonder why they waited 10 years to do a sequel. Next is YOU'RE NEXT, which didn't quite take off at the box office, but earned great reviews for its fresh take on the genre and biting sense of humor.

Both movies have a very different feel to them when compared to each other, and so we're here to see has the sharpest blades, the creepiest masks and features the best bloody kills!

THE ENSEMBLE
Scott Speedman as James Hoyt
Liv Tyler as Kristen McKay
Kip Weeks as Man in the Mask
Glenn Howerton as Mike
Laura Margolis as Pin-Up Girl
Gemma Ward as Dollface
Sharni Vinson as Erin
AJ Bowen as Crispian
Joe Swanberg as Drake
Wendy Glenn as Zee
Nicholas Tucci as Felix
Rob Moran as Paul
Barbara Crampton as Aubrey
Ti West as Tariq
Amy Seimetz as Aimee
L.C. Holt as Lamb Mask
Simon Barrett as Tiger Mask
Lane Hughes as Fox Mask
DIRECTION
There are positives and negatives to Bryan Bertino's approach as a director in this movie. As I will get into later, Bertino does an excellent job building tension and establishing an unnerving atmosphere when the masked folks make their presence known. The movie also has a more intimate feel thanks to the camera work. The focus on all of this rather than blood is an admirable effort and sticks to what is scary about this scenario, which is that there are creepy people lingering somewhere. However, this more realistic feel can sometimes come off as heavy-handed, especially in the beginning as he establishes our two protagonists as a couple going through a rough patch. This is never particularly engaging, and I don't think Bertino made it work in the movie's favor.
Adam Wingard's approach is embracing of the violent, clever shock value the genre can allow for, as well as throwing in a mixture of dark humor. He has more fun with it all by establishing a sense of manic urgency in the movie's pacing that makes the kills and thrills all the more surprising. He also works much better with the cast, getting together a band of actors and working with them to bring out some natural chemistry and humor to the point where you care when any one of them die, and buy it when the big twist(s) come by the end.
STORY/SCRIPT

A couple in crisis must soon put their emotions aside when three masked creepers begin viciously toying with the couple, setting in motion a series of terrifying acts that push the two lovers to their limit.

The movie starts out by emphasizing that James and Kristen are not in a good space, starting things out on a heavy, dour note. This is a change of pace from the normal picturesque beginnings of these movies, and could've made for a more interesting film had this dynamic not been put on the backburner when the horror kicks in. STRANGERS does things a bit differently in this department by having the killers not be psychos on a warpath, instead them being psychos who wish to toy with their victims first. As the movie goes on Bertino's script makes sure to place a few scares and twists along the way (poor Mike), but you should come to this movie for the atmosphere, not the character work or dialouge.

A family gathering at a woodland-centered vacation home goes horribly wrong when several masked men begin picking off people one by one in gruesome ways. But they didn't expect a woman named Erin to be so prepared, as she quickly gets herself together to fight back against the killers as the night gets bloodier and bloodier

The script from Simon Barrett (who also plays Tiger Mask) throws in lots of clever elements and surprises and soon gets things moving by wasting no time going balls-to-the-wall bonkers. The proceedings kick off fast as the moves beat by beat with an engaging rhythm. And none of this happens without establishing proper character motivations and dynamics. All the characters have their own personalities that work their way into the chaos, especially Vinson's Erin, who is an absolute horror movie badass. Really just a badass in general, really.

NOTABLE BITS, KILLS & LINES

Strangers at the Door

Things are getting Intense

James Comes Home

Vehicle Trouble

Grabbing the Shotgun

Dennis From It's Always Sunny Gets Shot

Out For Blood

The Shed

Ham Radio Fail

Hiding in the Cupboard

Dollface: “You’re gonna die.”

Daytime

Kristen: "Why are you doing this to us?”

Dollface: “Because you were home.”

The Slow Knife

Mormom Boys

Mormon Boy: "Are you a sinner?"

Dollface: "Sometimes."

Kristen Lives!

First Unlukcy Victims

Family Gathering

Flying Arrows

Full Speed into the Wire

Securing the House

Crispian: "I've never seen you act like this before."

Erin: "It's a unique situation."

Under the Bed

Running for Her Life

Axe to the Head

Meat Clever to the Skull

Dad Gets Sliced

Twist!

Taking on Another Baddie

Grrr! Table Flip!

Fratricide

Out the Window

Extreme Intimacy

Zee: "You never want to do anything interesting any more."

Felix: "I don't think that's a fair criticism."

Plan Revealed

Throat Punch!

Booby Traps

Killing the Final Masked Baddie

Blender to the Head

Zee's Dead, Baby

Confession

Crispian: [after getting stabbed by Erin] "Why?"

Erin: "Why the fuck not?"

One Final Unlukcy Soul

ATMOSPHERE/TENSION
The best quality this movie has going for it is how effectively Bertino concocts the nail-biting tension. Once the killers get involved the film works as a solid example of staging these surrounding threats, masking the villains in natural, dark shadows and having them linger as opposed to barrelling into a scene. Sometimes this style and tone can affect the movie as a whole poorly, but in terms of creating tense horror, often works quite well.
The atmosphere of YOU'RE NEXT is utter, gorey chaos. In terms of horror, this doesn't always work so well. Sure there are several effective scares to come out of quiet moments (the killer under the bed), but soon after we become accustomed to the villains as they make their presence known and close in on the remaining family members. The tension starts to fade as this happens, but it is replaced with a infectious energy.
MASKED CREEPIES
The killers in this movie are genuinely terrifying, as there's no rhyme or reason to how they do things. They just dress up in masks and fuck with these poor people like they're fish plucked from a pond. The way they linger in the house, or outside in the yard is incredibly unnerving, and most likely how such characters would probably behave in real life. They make their presence known without being overexposed, and their emotionless personalities are all the more terrifying thanks to their individually creepy masks.
Alright, these are basically just dudes in matching animals masks. Guns for hire who have no qualms sticking a few innocent folks for a big cash grab. They each have a personality to them, as they are just guys in masks trying to get paid, and their methods sure are brutal and cunning. But they aren't the source of the scares like the creepies in THE STRANGERS are.
STYLE
The word I would use to describe the movie's style is "grim." Just [email protected] grim. The early moments are depressing; the actual horrific events would make anyone uneasy; Scott Speedman shoots his friend in the face by accident. The whole tone hinges on the idea of taking such a horrific story and telling it as realistically as possible. This gives the movie a voyeuristic vibe, even if it comes off as taking itself too seriously.
Mixing the gore with equal parts black humor proves an effective combination that makes the movie feel like a fresh take on the genre, giving it a much-needed pick-me-up. The energetic style makes the movie endlessly entertaining, even when it's simply functioning as a family dramedy. The fact that it embraces all of this so much is what makes it such a scary, deliriously fun horror movie that never fails to be surprising or dull.
AWARDS, PRAISE & MONEY
Golden Schmoes:
    Nominated:
    Best Horror Movie
    **1 Wins & 14 Nominations (per IMDB)**

Praise

Money:
    $52 million domestic ($82 million global)
Golden Schmoes:
    Nominated:
    Best Horror Movie
    **11 Wins & 20 Nominations (per IMDB)**

Praise

Money:
    $18 million domestic ($18 million global)
YOU'RE NEXT

THE STRANGERS has some solid elements going for it, including some incredibly dark, unnerving vibes and some suitably creepy central antagonists. But the movie fails to tell an engaging story with characters you care about, which feels like the point of the movie given the minimalist, intimate style. As a result, it comes off like it's trying too hard to being something it's not. YOU'RE NEXT, on the other hand, embraces the manic, shocking style with humor and murderous glee, creating a bloody brilliant home invasion flick with mostly engaging characters to back it up. What makes it even better is the tremendous leading work from Sharni Vinson, who ranks as one of the best horror movie heroes, well, ever.

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