Film round-up: Week ending September 8th (You’re Next, Die Hard)

You’re Next (2013)

Trust me, you don’t have to be next. Simply by reading this little review, you have the chance to avoid watching this bafflingly overrated piece of slasher-fodder that brings nothing new to the table, with the possible exception of an unparalleled commitment to the nightmare that is SHAKY-CAM. Seriously, what is the point of shaky-cam? It’s not realistic, it doesn’t make you feel as though you are really there, it just gives off a pseudo-raw atmosphere that’s more nausea-inducing than the moments where various idiots are getting their throats slashed or their heads pierced by arrows. Not that you can really get a clear focus on all the gore, so manic is the camerawork. The first half hour, coincidentally the least shaky, is the best, as it looks as though the tension simmering under the surface of a family reunion could make for some (in a good way) cringe-inducing drama. Then everybody starts getting killed, people make stupid decisions, barely one-dimensional characters become walking plot twists and yes, that f-in’ camerawork makes it all impossible to watch, let alone care about, the increasingly wild carnage. Great soundtrack though, a blend of John Carpenter, Tangerine Dream and the Penderecki material from The Shining, while the opening sequence is a real killer. Interestingly, the role of the depressed matriarch is played by Eighties scream queen Barbara Crampton, who we all remember for the dodgiest reasons imaginable from the classic Re-Animator, while former mumblecore director/Dexter lookalike Joe Swanberg plays the most obnoxious sibling in cinema history since Bill Paxton in Weird Science.

Die Hard (1988)

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It’s been a pleasure to revisit John McTiernan and Bruce Willis on top form– along with Aliens, it represents the absolute peak of the action blockbuster. What really stands up about it after all these years is just how classy the editing, photography and direction is – sleek, slick and yet not showy or ostentatious, operating like the smoothest, most ruthless and high-powered thrill machine imaginable. Willis’ John McClane redfined the action hero in a way that was essentially inimitable, although many tried, including the man himself, reprising the character to increasingly unappealing effect in the many sequels, although such is the greatness of the role that Die Hard 2 and 3 still remain hugely enjoyable. Likewise, Alan Rickman made the cliché of the urbane, dry and clever Euro-villain a thing to treasure rather than roll your eyes to, and no one’s matched his approach either. Throw in a colourful and fun array of supporting characters, a hugely quotable script and the kind of raw, tough, high-impact violence that they don’t seem to deliver in Hollywood anymore (it’s either watered down or excessively gratutitous) and you’ve got something that never gets old and will always be a classic. Such is my love for this film that, after naively giving the very poor fourth instalment a chance, I cannot bring myself to have Die Hard further sullied by taking the time to watch the, by all accounts, dreadful fifth film.

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