We Bought a Zoo
A widowed father played by Matt Damon moves to the South Californian country and purchases a zoo with his family
On Film4: 31 Aug 6:25PM
A wealthy, yet dysfunctional, upper middle class family come together for a reunion in their secluded country mansion. But it looks like they’re not alone in the house...
After working in shorter formats in The ABCs Of Death and both entries in the V/H/S mini-franchise, 'Mumblegore' maestro Adam Wingard here splatters his talent over a feature-length canvas. You’re Next, originally premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011 years before the release of all three anthology appearances, plays like a 1980s Woody Allen drama gone wrong, as a dysfunctional upper-middle class family come together in their secluded mansion to bury the hatchet and be civil to each other.
Unfortunately, the hatchets aren’t metaphorical, and they’re being buried into the bodies of each family member in turn by a bunch of scary goons in animal masks. Good job, then, that the bearded failed intellectual son’s (AJ Bowen) new girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson) is a kick-ass Aussie raised on a survivalist camp.
True to form, these characters bitch and moan their way towards their untimely deaths - and although there is an inkling of some sort of satirical serves-'em-right undercurrent, since the family home was built with money earned from arms dealing, Simon Barrett's script doesn't offer up a story or character to latch onto. Erin is undoubtedly a formidable heroine, but she's more of a clever-clever construct - a killer cat among the home-invasion horror pigeons - than someone who inspires empathy.
However, the director’s clear enjoyment of his film’s grisly violence and genre subversion is too hard to resist, and Wingard fills out the flick with enough gory gags (Erin’s homemade traps, which evoke Straw Dogs and Home Alone in equal measure) and cheeky cameos (indie filmmakers Joe Swanberg and Ti West are a given, but Re-Animator / From Beyond scream queen Barbara Crampton is a real gift to 80s horror aficionados) to make You’re Next more than just an energetic retread of familiar themes.
A smart alec horror of the highest order, Adam Wingard’s You’re Next revels in the thrill of taking a hatchet to the face of indie cinema’s most well-worn archetype: the upper middle class family.
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