Saturday, December 14, 2013

2013 in Shit: You're Next

This is a movie about an estranged and hostile space, as are all home invasion and haunted house movies; it tells us this from the beginning with its Halloween-patented shaky is-it-the-killer's-POV? cam and its tight angles that refuse space, in how it manufactures that Lynchian moment with the lingering camera at the unopened (closet?) door at once situated and antitopological, in how it tightens the world through that once off reference among the myriad of other images to a kind of visual claustrophobia where a meat-tenderizer can function legibly as a deadly weapon at the same (albeit chronologically different) time as the glass of a window can empty itself into the documentarian's brain as a crossbow bolt. It's a movie about an unknowable mansion in this way, with space mappable but only as action taken in its own negations; this is never more clear than in the brief sequences shot outside as characters run away, as the trails & roads vanish into absolute forest. It seems that even the driveway dissolves itself with the light as the cars vanish into an out-of place to be seen only in total isolation.

It's worth noting that there are only three traps -- a fourth if you count the camera in the basement -- and the only two that seem really premeditated are both at the front door, with the third the discarded nail-bat beneath the window. The piano wire strung up by the invaders functions as a kind of final emphasis that the house itself has inverted, or everted, lost its constitutive claim to being the becoming of the private, lost fully the fantastical resonances of the castle only to find itself in its own malevolent intelligence. And then, hours later, the protagonist's failure to recognize this leads to the Home Alone-style axe trap rigged in that same space, as though we were still operating in under the illusion of objectivity amenable to modification and not a bastard constellation of desire and thing, which reminds in its first failure that this malevolence is organized as much by the porousness of space as by its opaqueness. It isn't just the way halls and doors obscure visibility; its the way that portals themselves, the means of communication -- that make the house in common with itself, that provide it a system of signification -- are high abstractions, signifiers that only function as though they are linked to their signifieds under certain forms of very specific, arbitrary authority. Which is why when the cop catches that trap to the chest it's not only the FTP but the formalist in me that yelps & claps loud in a mostly empty theater. Mostly its the FTP though.

If the home invasion genre is better at performing the haunted house than those films whose generic identity is rooted in the trope, like last year's Silent House, then You're Next's invasion at a distance (as metonymized through the crossbow) ramps it up a notch; the house pops inwards with an objective cause that only ever announces itself after the fact, in wound of flesh or property, in accordance with the creation or curation or dissolution of tension as the case may be, but, in its fidelity to the affect, always presenting an unknowable immanence prior to and premiere over the subsequence, the folding back into the linguistic facticity of the crossbow bolt buried in the jock's shoulder. That is, of course, if my claims about haunted houses bear any weight, as well, which build on my thoughts about ghosts against their characterization and for their formal qualities as a sort of linguistics of place, or the becoming of a subjectivity of space. Your mileage may vary or whatever.

How else to know a house but through the legal abstractions that condition it, through the language whose obfuscation is a condition of its precision (as though there was any other way)? Private property is a cop, and even if its only through the mediation of Home Alone in a constructed medium that jiggles the doorhandle that pulls the string that pendulums the axe, at least it can be mediated at all. Anyway, that's (apparently) the purview of tomorrow's on The Purge; for now know only that when the homes grow tongues and history fucking attacks that you won't get very far complaining about the illegibility of their speech. If the hostile home's a camera flashing's strobe light in a basement's lure to a two-by-four bludgeoning, or an unexploded gas pump leaking at a station surrounded by a chorus of cars, or a bleeding wall of awkwardly allegorized trauma, don't look all shocked or try to pretend the people there had a goddamn thing to do about it. It's the fucking social and it doesn't have your best interests at heart.

Threaded through You're Next (have I already gone too far? Can I not return to it at this point? I will, anyway), too, is a strong critique of survivalism, contemporarily a US libertarian aesthetic, in the form of the ass-kicking lady protagonist of the movie who murders her way out of the situation, becoming a Die Hard-style vessel for accumulated gore. Except also for injury. The movie ends, before the cop gets it, with her final murder, for its own sake (I believe the accompanying dialogue is "Why not?") of her greedy rich professor boyfriend, a cutting of the gordian knot of wealth & happiness or wealth & freedom, a refusal to die presented as a refusal of a refusal to die, which is a pretty accurate description of the extent of her characterization (achieved through meat cleaver and mechanized blender to brain matter murders, for the most part) at all points prior. An Aussie-inflected libertarian who refuses the American Dream (being born well off and inheriting riches)? Of course she's going to kill cops, whether she wants to or not. The meritocratic myth has to die in each of us some way, so why not through the hostile thinking house and the gore of elaborately manufactured "state of nature" scenarios? I'm fucking into it.

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