Clint takes a look at two new releases that come out each week –just a short look at what’s being released in theaters, along with some drinking rules for your own perusal.
The World’s End / dir. Edgar Wright / Focus Features
Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are, simply put, some of the best genre comedies of the 21st century thus far; Edgar Wright’s collaborations with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost always seem to result in incredibly hilarious, acerbic comedies that have the rare distinction of actually serving as fine examples of the genres they lampoon. Shaun of the Dead managed to deftly combine zombie horror antics with an interesting look at men needing to grow up and take responsibility for themselves, while Hot Fuzz combined Hollywood buddy-cop trappings and the English small-town thriller to make a film about the importance of loosening up.
This third film in the series follows Gary King (Pegg), a 40-year-old adolescent who hasn’t grown up following a failed pub crawl in his high school days, as he gathers his old gang of buddies (Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan) to drive back to their hometown and re-attempt the 12-bar sojourn and recapture their lost youth. Along the way, they discover the town has changed for the worse, and for good reason; it’s been occupied by robots who are the advance guard of an alien network that has big plans for the Earth.
The World’s End has a surprising amount in common with Shaun, as both follow a manchild (Pegg) through a harrowing journey of self-discovery with his best friend (Frost). However, unlike the first film, where he learns to temper his immaturity and learn to be more responsible, The World’s End’s Gary King revels in his lack of forward momentum. The film itself has a remarkably dramatic edge to it, moreso than the previous films, with the buddy comedy peppering in dark undertones of adolescent trauma, the dullness of adult life, and the frustration inherent to drug abuse and depression. All of Gary’s bluster is an act for the sad shell underneath, and several of the other characters in the group of buddies have their own problems.
What makes the drama work so well, however, is Wright’s effervescent style and ability to create perfectly plotted scenarios filled with interesting characters that are easily relatable. Each member of the cast gets their own moments to shine (even Rosamund Pike as an old school flame of Gary’s, who decides to show up in town at the same time), and the bar-crawl is a really fascinating way to structure a film. It almost feels a bit like a video game in execution, which follows from Wright’s Scott Pilgrim experience and helps to point out the innate immaturity of the ritual itself. The action scenes are wonderfully ridiculous, performed as an odd combination of street-brawling and wrestling that’s as fast-paced as you could possibly imagine; these five ordinary blokes being surprisingly competent fighters is the kind of incongruity that The World’s End revels in.
There’s plenty to draw from in the film, just like in the previous two Pegg/Frost/Wright efforts; there’s the ‘blank’ robots who stand in for Thatcheresque conformism and ‘Starbucking’ of local flavor, the Star Trek/Doctor Who-esque climax, complete with a ‘Kirk talks the computer into defeat’ scene, the sadness of lost potential in our lives, and so much more. The soundtrack’s full of 90s hits from Pulp, Primal Scream, The Housemartins and more, while Steven Price’s orchestral score actually has quite a bit of refreshing earnestness to it – the 90s pop songs solidify the nostalgia-comedy part of The World’s End, while the eerie electronic sounds and intense orchestration of Price’s score help immensely to sell the action scenes and drama. Bill Pope’s cinematography is gorgeous as well, all of these technical elements adding up to a film that’s dripping with style and a tremendously enjoyable pace.
The World’s End is a bit harder to pigeonhole than the first two films, really; it’s clearly a science fiction body-snatcher film, and it has the basic conceit of a ‘reliving the past’ buddy comedy, but all the elements meld together into something fairly original instead of the previous film’s overt pastiches. The ensemble cast is wonderful, the humor is spot-on, and the ending will even surprise you with its darkness; unlike Shaun, the message of The World’s End is the importance of not growing up or seeking perfection. Despite these differences (or perhaps because of them), The World’s End is a worthy cap to this loosely thematically connected trilogy.
Clint’s Verdict: Loved It
Drinking Rules for The World’s End: (MILD SPOILERS)
1) Drink whenever a character drinks
2) Drink every time a character says “WTF”
3) Drink anytime someone is dismembered
Finish Your Drink When:
The Network (Bill Nighy) says, “Yeah. Fuck it.”
You’re Next / dir. Adam Wingard / Lionsgate
Apparently made in 2011 and only just given a wide release now , You’re Next looks like just another one of those home-invasion slasher flicks. In many respects, it is; you’ll find very few surprises here, as it all turns out just about how you’d expect. However, there’s just enough freshness in approach to make this a very worthwhile experience, especially if you’re a horror fan.
The basic setup is one we’ve seen a million times before: a family reunion brings together about nine or ten people (the parents, the sons and daughter, and their significant others – many of whom are meeting the family for the first time) at a secluded house out in the country. However, they soon find themselves targeted by a group of killers in gimmicky masks (this time, they’re in crude, white animal masks), who then proceed to dispatch the family with all manner of gruesome implements, such as axes, knives and crossbow bolts. The film then follows the family’s attempts to survive the night, with one Final Girl stepping up to the plate and finding the will to survive. Again, none of this is new, but this film manages to find ways to twist the rules just enough to make it interesting.
First and foremost, the biggest twist comes from the film’s protagonist, clichéd Final Girl Erin (an effective Sharni Vinson). An unknown element, she just comes in as pudgy intellectual Crispian’s (AJ Bowen) girlfriend; however, she soon proves to be insanely competent when it comes to dealing with this harrowing home invasion scenario. You know all those people who yell at the screen and lament the stupid decisions characters make that get them killed? Erin is if your main character listened to those people and followed suit; there are some throwaway lines about how she grew up in a survivalist commune with her dad, but the gist is that she knows she’s in a horror movie. She always makes the right decision; in any other movie, that would sound boring, but in a genre that relies on characters being dumb as dirt to get the kills we want, Erin is very refreshing to watch. She sets traps, makes plans, and busts heads with the rest of them, and by the end of the film she becomes the slasher we’re supposed to fear and root for.
The film also has a tremendously sly sense of humor. Unlike other metahorror films like Cabin in the Woods and Tucker and Dale Versus Evil, it doesn’t sneer at its genre or telegraph itself as a comedy. It still fully recognizes itself as a horror film, but has enough laughs at the characters’ expense to not feel forced. The initial reaction of the WASP-y family to being attacked is tremendously funny, as we chuckle at overreacting moms shouting “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!” or a deadpan-serious discussion between who can run the fastest, between an out-of-shape college professor and a guy with an arrow lodged in his back. Hell, the initial kill isn’t even noticed at first because the family is too busy bickering around the table to see that someone’s got an arrow in their forehead two feet away. We even get to laugh at the killers’ expense, as they show a surprising amount of humanity the more we learn about them.
You’re Next is filmed in tremendously gory grindhouse fashion, with a wonderfully cheesy and Carpenter-esque synth score pouring over the film’s second half. Adam Wingard knows how to do low-budget horror, and it shows; the kills are just gory enough to make you cringe, but don’t go to the extremes that the Evil Dead remake did. With a few exceptions, everyone just gets stabbed or shot with arrows, but it’s through our rooting for Erin and the comical dumbness of the rest of the family that we become just as invested in these kills as anything else. (I know I won’t be using my blender for awhile, that’s for sure.)
In conclusion, even though You’re Next looks painfully generic in the trailers (and still suffers from a fairly boring first act), it plays around with genre conventions in a sly, subtle way, without making that What the Film’s About like the self-serving cynicism of Cabin in the Woods. It fully understands that it’s a horror film, but simply wonders what would happen if your protagonist actually knew what she was doing. By making their lead character a mix of Kevin McCallister from Home Alone and Jason Voorhees, the film delivers with a fantastic second half that sees us actually cheering for our poor young Erin to take another life. If you like horror or slasher films at all, there’s enough in You’re Next that you’ll appreciate.
Clint’s Verdict: Liked It
Drinking Rules for You’re Next:
1) Drink whenever you see a weapon buried in someone’s body
2) Drink every time Erin (Sharni Vinson) dispenses tactical advice
3) Drink any time you can see a character’s face through a window
Finish Your Drink Line:
“Fuck me on this bed next to your dead mom.”