The very best thing a horror movie can do is get you so invested in the characters that it's the very idea that they are in danger that troubles you. Not the frequency of gore or the creepiness of the killers at large. And for a while, there, that's what You're Next seems to be up to: really immersing you in the family Davison. An uneven clan of resentful, emotionally distant WASPs, there is just as much tension before the killings begin during their countryside weekend getaway as there is midway through the bloodbath. The defining difference: the earlier stuff is a bit more fun.
Middle-aged married couple Paul (Rob Moran) and Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) retreat to their gigantic vacation home in the middle of nowhere, gathering each of their grown children (and their respective significant others) together for a moreover unpleasant dinner. The occasion is ambiguous, although it is suggested that the family is trying to mend some long-tattered fences with this reunion. As such, the meal proceeds with spiteful comments, passive-aggressive comebacks, and a general feeling of discomfort for the only sane one in the room: Erin (Sharni Vinson), second son Crispian's (AJ Bowen) Australian girlfriend and former student. And then, murders.
Lots and lots of murders. For no discernible reason, the family finds itself the victim of a team of eerily masked home invaders packing machetes and crossbows, bent on slaying each and every one of the dumbfounded Davisons. Naturally, as the characters fall, the stakes rise. But we lose more than bodies with each killing — we lose the fun. The fun in hearing adult siblings argue about which one of them is the fastest and as such most capable of running to get help. The fun in brothers bickering pettily about life choices while one has an arrow lodged in his upper back (that's Joe Swanberg, far and away the funniest player in the movie). Once the stars begin to get picked off with greater speed, there are fewer opportunities for these family squabbles.
The cat and mouse game to follow, however, is one a few notches above that of a normal horror flick, thanks entirely to the charms, quirks, and skills of guest Erin. Still, what we have from the second act on is a horror movie — a fun one, but nothing more. As You're Next seems to paint itself with the inventive countenance of something like Cabin in the Woods, you might be entering the game with expectations set high. Lower them just a bit, not too much. What you'll have in store is not a colorless slasher picture — it's a fun, funny, occasionally startling, and temporarily interesting. But rest assured, it's nothing too far outside the box, either.
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The ageing hunk admits he was reluctant to pose for the Hawaiian hammock-themed shoot but signed on to be "a nice guy".
And he's regretted his decision ever since.
He explains, "They put me in a hammock between two palm trees and I had on a purple Hawaiian shirt... and they gave me one of those pineapples that are cut off with a big straw and an umbrella.
"I said, 'I don't wanna do this', and they said, 'Oh, come on, just be a good sport'.
"Now, everywhere I go, that poster comes up or that picture comes up and I have to sign it."
Based on the bestseller by Nicolas Sparks the film begins with Duke (James Garner) and Allie (Gena Rowlands) an inseparable couple living in a nursing home. While Duke remembers their life together Allie who suffers from progressive dementia does not. Their only bond is a faded notebook from which Duke reads to Allie every day telling her the same story over and over. It's a sweeping tale of two South Carolina teens country boy Noah (Ryan Gosling) and city gal Allie (Rachel McAdams) who spend one glorious summer in the early 1940s falling madly in love. Unfortunately the couple is soon separated first by her disapproving parents and then by World War II but after seven years apart after taking different paths they are passionately reunited. There's a catch though; Allie is now faced to choose between the man she once loved and the successful businessman (James Marsden) she is engaged to. It's really no surprise who the young Allie chooses in the end--but for Duke the only thing that keeps him going is the fact that every day somehow through the power of this story the mentally impaired Allie miraculously remembers their love if only for a very brief moment before slipping back into oblivion. Tears being jerked from your eyes yet?
The talented cast certainly elevates The Notebook's romantic drudgery. McAdams takes a departure from all the Mean Girls she's played lately (including The Hot Chick) and easily wins you over as the spirited young Allie while the usually intense Gosling also tackles something lighter so to speak than his previous darker roles such as his Jewish-turned-American Nazi leader in The Believer. While infusing a certain sense of brooding and melancholy into Noah especially in the years he spends pining for Allie Gosling manages to exude Noah's genuine warmth and sensitivity as well. And between the two of them real sparks fly as the actors paint a fresh and inviting picture of young love that stands the test of time. Marsden is completely wasted however as Allie's fiancé Lon a upstanding Southern gentleman Allie's parents expect her to marry who offers little as to why Allie should stay with him. As the older contingency veterans Garner and Rowlands who take the sappiest material and turn it into something meaningful inspire some truly heart-ripping moments as the aging couple holding onto their love as tight as they can. In the supporting cast Joan Allen has some shining moments as Allie's uptight mother with a secret of her own.
In bringing the popular novel about enduring love to life director Nick Cassavetes (Unhook the Stars) may have used his own experiences having seen his parents--the late John Cassavetes and his lady love and muse Gena Rowlands--play out their own real-life love affair. Cassavettes gets to the heart of the material right away and permeates the screen with the beautiful surroundings of South Carolina where The Notebook was filmed. We glide through lush moss-filled swamps and sleepy Southern towns marvel at languid shots of the South Carolina coastline. It's very clear Cassavetes has a way with actors much like his father did gently coaxing realistic performances from his young somewhat untested leads while allowing old guards like Garner and Rowlands to simply work their magic (imagine telling your Oscar-nominated mother how to act. Right). The problem is the story itself which not only offers nothing new to the romance genre but also isn't very compelling. There are no great tragedies (save perhaps for the whole dementia thing) no real villainous presence to keep the lovers apart no peril at all. It's boy-meets-girl boy-loses-girl boy-wins-girl-back--ho-hum. Where's the sudsy soap opera when you need it?