Archives for posts with tag: Motor Psycho

yourenextposter

Inexplicably neglected since 2011, with no wide release until now, You’re Next is not only one of the finest film surprises of 2013, but one of the greatest slasher movies ever made. Affectionately versed in its 80s genre heritage, Adam Wingard’s film is a combination slasher and downbeat, darkly comedic family melodrama, almost as if Noah Baumbach had decided to direct a horror movie.

Middle-aged couple Paul (Rob Moran) and Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) are celebrating their wedding anniversary, for which occasion their grown children and their significant others are gathering for a celebration at their country house. Before very long, old sibling rivalries and resentments resurface, both to the family’s chagrin and the audience’s delight; but the funny display of dysfunction at dinner is disrupted when an arrow flies through a window, lodging itself in one guest’s head, and the group realizes that the house is being attacked by an unknown entity or entities. What follows is a Straw Dogs-style siege, a tour de force of storytelling, creative suspense, and invested work from an excellent cast led by Sharni Vinson as Australian heroine Erin.

You’re Next has clearly been crafted with love by people devoted to the genre, and nearly everything in the film is perfect. From delicious moments of tension to elegant use of slow motion, unexpected bits of humor, the obligatory final girl structure, and the reverent casting of genre favorite Barbara Crampton as Aubrey, this is a film by and for those who appreciate the 80s horror inheritance. The experience is further intensified by a supremely effective soundtrack of gothic noise and energizing and inhuman electronica courtesy of scorers Mads Heldtberg, Jasper Justice Lee, and Kyle McKinnon. Director Wingard and writer Simon Barrett are also collaborators on The Guest, a film presently in production, so one can only hope for more morbid magic from that one whenever it gets its release.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that You’re Next is a horror which, in the grand old slasher tradition, has a pronounced sense of morality, and also indicates that it is:

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

11. Anti-drug. Vicodin abuse is a sure invitation to victimhood in a slasher film.

10. Anti-police. A police officer, arriving on the scene of the horror too late, gets the wrong idea of the situation in the house and makes what the audience can only view as a fatally tragic error.

9. Anti-miscegenation and anti-Arab. One of the young women is involved with a quiet (or is that aloof? – and presumably somewhat pretentious) “underground” documentary filmmaker named Tariq (Ti West), whose name (“to reek”) suggests offending armpits. These miscegenators are among the first to die. It is worthy of note, however, that this minor character seems to have been designed so as to contradict stereotypical depictions of Arabs (cf. no. 7).

8. Anti-Christian. Paul and Aubrey’s faith is formal and superficial and not shared by the younger set, who give evidence of their contempt as prayer is said at dinner.

7. Immigration-ambivalent. Erin, of tough, self-reliant Australian stock, is the sort of immigrant that the country arguably needs. Tariq’s death is undignified and will not be mourned by the audience (cf. no. 9).

6. Anti-state. The resourceful Erin, the audience learns, was raised by an extremist survivalist father in the Australian outback. Though she is somewhat embarrassed by her past, her father’s doomsday scenario teachings definitely come in handy (see also nos. 3 and 10).

5. Anti-slut. In the film’s opening scene, a couple has what is obviously loveless sex. The shameless woman then gets up and goes to a window without even bothering to cover up her semi-nudity. Naturally, this wanton specimen is the first to die. Goth girl Zee (Wendy Glenn) is a far worse degenerate and demands to have sex next to her boyfriend’s mother’s corpse.

4. Anti-weenie. Generation X/Y men are worthless and incapable of defending themselves.  Drake (Joe Swanberg) is a spoiled brat and philistine, and one senses that devious brothers Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and Crispian (AJ Bowen), apart from being motivated by the fortune they stand to gain (see no. 2), are haunted by a sense of having been insufficiently nurtured as children. Both devoid of anything resembling a work ethic, neither man has the taste for doing his own dirty work. Crispian is a struggling writer who fails to meet with his father’s approval and has probably grown a beard partly to cover up his pudgy features, but also so as to seem to be more of a man, which may also explain his lame tattoo (cf. no. 1). The relativistic hypocrisy of the neutered liberal American male is also spotlighted when Crispian, after having his family slaughtered, actually claims to be a pacifist. (For more on Generation X/Y, see Creep Van)

3. Antiwar. Just as, in the years during and after the Vietnam war, movies exploited the phenomenon of psychologically scarred and dehumanized veterans taking the terror of foreign conflict back to the streets of America in Motor Psycho, Forced Entry, Rolling Thunder, First Blood, Combat Shock, and others in this vein, a wave of films including recent entries Savages, Jack Reacher, and You’re Next has emerged to continue this simultaneously salacious and critical tradition. In You’re Next, a team of coldblooded mercenaries, probably veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan, have been hired to exterminate most of the family for the father’s fortune. Mild-mannered “fascist” Paul, who acquired his wealth as a public relations shill for a defense contractor, has surely guaranteed for himself a painful demise in the unforgiving moral universe of You’re Next.

2. Anti-family/anti-marriage. A wedding anniversary is the occasion of a massacre. Parents Paul and Aubrey are self-absorbed, faintly distant, and perhaps inconsistently affectionate with their children. Felix, along with girlfriend Zee and brother Crispian, plot murder against their parents and brother Drake. The man murdered in the film’s opening scene has, it is later revealed, left his wife for a college girl.

1. Feminist. Erin is forced to lead the home defense and proves to be quite the adept at forging makeshift MacGyver-style weaponry. Of interest is that she uses kitchen wares, the trappings of traditional woman’s work, for violent self-assertion (cf. Vile). Also interesting, though, is that Erin makes a kitchen blunder that might, were she not the final girl, actually have cost her her life. Imagining she has flung boiling water on adversary Felix, she forgets that she earlier turned off the heat. “The water’s not even hot, you dumb bitch,” Felix tells her. Erin, however, quickly recovers and handily dispatches this sexist swine (with his insensitive expectation that women ought to know how to cook) with a triumph of poetic justice, taking advantage of a blender’s exposed mechanism to give him a gruesome homemade lobotomy. Zee, in a parallel characterization, is more ambitiously wicked and assertive in her villainy than wimpy co-conspirator Felix.

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Jack Reacher

A forgettably generic, silly, implausibly contrived mystery-thriller, Jack Reacher is nonetheless watchable and even enjoyable for starring the still remarkably gorgeous Tom Cruise, who retains a fascination that shines even through the most lackluster sorts of material.  He is at no point entirely convincing as the secretive, laconic drifter of the title, a man who moves from town to town with only one set of nondescript clothes and who, like Henry Fonda’s Tom Joad, will “be there” when trouble necessitates.

This adventure has Jack coming to the unlikely aid of psychotic Iraq war veteran James Barr (Joseph Sikora) who, in an apparent open-and-shut case, is the prime suspect in a seemingly random shooting spree.  Teaming with easy-on-the-eyes public defender Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), he has little difficulty getting himself into pickles that involve exciting car action and entertainingly cartoonish hand-to-hand combat.  He unearths an ornate conspiracy involving enigmatic one-eyed villain “the Zec” (Werner Herzog) and soon finds himself the subject of unfriendly attention from the police and various inept criminal minions.

Whether or not the film is a worthwhile waste of time will ultimately be determined by each viewer’s taste or distaste for Tom Cruise, who makes or breaks the innocuous Jack Reacher accordingly.  3.5 of 5 possible stars.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Jack Reacher is:

8. Anti-Christian.  A murderous thug (Vladimir Sizov) wears a gaudy crucifix.

7. Anti-slut.  Jack has standards.  A woman loose in her associations meets an unenviable end.

6. Anti-military/antiwar.  Four types of people enter the military: those following in a family tradition; patriots; people who need work; and those looking for a legal venue in which to commit murder.  Private security contractors in Iraq engage in something dubbed a “rape rally”.  Just as disillusionment with American activity in Vietnam trickled into the cinema with a proliferation of films about mentally unhinged veterans bringing the war home in Motor Psycho, The Ravager, Taxi Driver, Cannibal Apocalypse, First Blood, and others, the failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are giving rise to a cinema of the Iraq psycho as evidenced by Savages, Jack Reacher, and probably more to come.

5. Gun-ambivalent.  The private gun owners who frequent Robert Duvall’s shooting range are characterized as poor marksmen and “touchy” about their Second Amendment rights.  Merle Haggard’s “The Fightin’ Side of Me” plays at the range, reinforcing the brutish hick image for gun rights advocates.  Duvall, though he gives Jack some very useful information and tactical assistance, exhibits poor judgment of his patrons’ character when he says he “always liked” the insane Barr.

4. Leftist.  Cops never vote for Democrats, Jack suggests (though others might disagree).  The corrupt police in Jack Reacher are therefore, one assumes, supposed to be evil Republicans.  Public defenders are idealists working to protect the innocent citizenry.

3. Anti-police.  Police are corrupt and allow a suspect to be beaten brutally while in custody.  When Jack is wrongly suspected of a murder and hotly pursued by squad cars and a police helicopter, a friendly black man (who presumably understands from personal experience that police will frequently hound an innocent man) lends him his cap to help him make himself inconspicuous in a crowd.

2. State-skeptical.  Government pork spending is at the root of the conspiracy.

1. Pro-vigilante.  With police like these, who needs criminals?

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