As previously noted, perhaps arguably ad nauseam, I’m ambivalent when it comes to horror movies. I like when one comes out that excites people and seems genuinely different because I think it is a viable genre and I want the best of every genre. Just because it is not my favorite kind of film doesn’t mean I cannot appreciate when it is done well. As a fan of film en masse, I want the best for each and every genre, regardless of my own personal interest.
Which brings us to YOU’RE NEXT. First, as it seems is required by every person of quality who’ve discussed this movie, I should make it clear that even though this is the second “people in masks invade a house and get some killing on” film of this summer, it is not the same as THE PURGE. Indeed, it is not even the same as THE STRANGERS, the well regarded “people in masks invade a house and get some killing on.” There. YOU’RE NEXT fans, now you have no need to write me and tell me how awful I am for making such comparisons.
Apparently, NEXT (as short for YOU’RE NEXT, not the single word Nic Cage film that was like THE KNOWING, but different) also boasts a strong line of coal black humor throughout. From what I understand, it is not SCREAM style deconstruction humor, either, making it a pretty unique entry in the “horror with laughs” film subgenre. (Lots of subgenres going on in this piece here: Nic Cage movies where he has some sort of precognitive insight, horror with laughs, people in masks invade a house and get some killing on).
So, people are excited for this one, and I like that. If it lives up to the hype, it’ll be the second solid horror offering this summer (after THE CONJURING, which you might have seen me talk about it) and when is the last summer that happened during?
For the record, it was probably 2009, depending on your feelings about ORPHAN.
Just a word of warning before we all lose our minds in excitement though: NEXT (again, not the Nic Cage masterpiece) has been shelved for two years. This doesn’t mean it will be bad, CABIN IN THE WOODS was similarly shelved for a bit, but it is often a negative indicator.
This is a bit of a cheat as the only thing that connects this movie to NEXT (you understand I mean the movie being released next Friday, not the Nic Cage epic poem of a film released in 2007) is Barbara Crampton who plays a scream queen in a super bit part in the movie within the movie of DOUBLE and, evidently, the matriarch of the family from NEXT (un-Cage-y edition). So, she plays a small part in two movies and I’ve chosen to jump on that to talk about early Brian De Palma. Deal with it America. Deal with it.
The thing with me and De Palma is that I have great affection for him as a director, especially the 1973-1996 period which is filled with his more lurid pieces, including, of course, BODY DOUBLE. What’s fascinating about my affection for him is that I actually don’t believe most of those movies are good, per se. I think they’re fascinating. I think they have great style. I appreciate their “Hitchcock as filtered through exploitation aesthetic” but I confess I have a difficult time arguing for their quality.
Nonetheless, I’d argue De Palma is incredibly important and his filmography (let’s say up to SNAKE EYES) well worth a look. For one thing, he’s unapologetically sexualized, something rare then (and weirdly even rarer now). Here’s the plot to BODY DOUBLE (which is, essentially a filthy-minded REAR WINDOW): An actor gets fired and discovers his girlfriend his cheating on him the same day and ends up homeless as a result. A friend of a friend lets him sublet his apartment which has a view of a shapely woman unafraid to get naked in front of her windows which the actor delights in. In short order, the actor sees the woman being abused by her significant other, seems poised to start an affair with her, and witnesses her murder.
In taking in a hardcore pornographic film, he realizes that the woman he thought he was witnesses was, in fact, not the resident of the house across the way, but rather an adult film actress. Convinced the actress might be the key to solving his almost-lover’s affair, he ends up immersing himself in the adult film industry.
Imagine Jimmy Stewart doing that.
In addition to having a movie that acknowledges porn exists as something that is made, not just consumed via magazines, videos, or through a DSL line, an unusual enough event, the film is remarkably matter-of-fact about adult movies. It is portrayed as a job without judgment. At no point does the film assert the women are damaged or being taken advantage of. In fact, in a largely thrown away scene, the porn actress (portrayed by a very young, often casually naked Melanie Griffith) talks to a barely work “mainstream” actress in such a way that makes it clear the script does not believe mainstream work is in any way “better” than sex movies and, if anything, that adult films are a bit more fertile (is that a pun? If so, forgive me) ground to find work and to be appreciated as something more than a cog in a vast machine.
Try to picture that in a movie today.
Again, I don’t know if I’d recommend this movie. However, I would, overall, recommend consuming De Palma’s oeuvre in total (for those 23 or so years) and appreciate DOUBLE in that context. Also, if you are a professor of film, get on building a De Palma centric course immediately.