Release: Friday, August 23, 2013 (limited)
Men in animal masks descend upon a dinner party tucked away in a secluded mansion in the forest. When one guest manages to outlast the many vicious assaults, the identities of the assailants as well as the motives for all the bloodshed come into question.
You’re Next combines good old-fashioned gore with a surprisingly clever conceit to build a film that is more dark comedy than horror. While I’ve debated exactly what makes ‘horror films’ “horrifying” these days (blood and guts aren’t scary, that stuff’s just gross), it seems director Adam Wingard, along with writer Simon Barrett, were keen on trying to reinvent the term. They came close, but not quite. Still, the resultant film is a ton of fun and deserves more attention than it’s probably getting.
Beginning fairly inconspicuously, the family slowly starts to come together to celebrate the 35th wedding anniversary of Crispian (AJ Bowen), Drake (Joe Swanberg), Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and Kelly (Margaret Laney)’s parents. Though the acting starts off on the wrong foot, the atmosphere remains relatively tense since a few members of the family — notably Drake and Crispian — don’t get along very well. As dinner conversation goes from civilized to more hostile, strange things are happening outside and in a single, brilliantly directed moment chaos erupts. From here on out, you can start to expect a body to drop about every other scene. The blood starts to flow quite freely, and things in the Davison family will never be the same again. That’s putting it mildly, too.
The family is under attack from at least three men — one in a lamb mask, another in a tiger mask and the third in a fox mask. (I actually thought one of those was a bear, but still. The masks are effectively creepy either way.) The masked murderers apply a variety of hunting skills to the task at hand, which is essentially to wipe out this entire gathering of seemingly innocent people, wielding crossbows, machetes and axes as their weapons of choice. However, as the narrative continues to unwind and the body count rises, we are provided some unexpected twists — here, ones that are used to serve great purpose rather than being thrown in to oblige a post-Saw horror audience — that shake up the entire dynamic of this particular home invasion story.
Impressively, the acting throughout You’re Next does not greatly improve. . . .yet the movie itself does, and by quite a large margin. Relying mostly on emotional reaction shots in response to the (often grisly) death of someone close to them, Wingard and company don’t need award-worthy performances from the cast to carry this story forward. The further we go, the more complicated the morality play at work becomes. Character motivations become the only thing that truly separate this from a plethora of other home-invasion type thrillers. The violence is nothing spectacularly original — though it is often accompanied here by a laugh or two, which is attributable to the brilliant writing of one Simon Barrett (who wrote segments for V/H/S 1 and 2); and the hits always come at a time when it feels. . . right. I feel a little like a psychopath saying that, but when you watch this film, tell me you do not agree.
Though the film is limited (more or less) to a single building, the drama is never less than compelling. It also should be emphasized that there is more drama than terror; more twisted, dark humor than profuse bloodletting for profuse bloodletting’s sake. Because the film borrows elements from dramas and thrillers, there is an unusual gleefulness about watching so much gore unfold. Adding to that the fact that hardly any of the characters are all that likable aside from the crucial role that Sharni Vinson plays as Crispian’s girl, Erin, and You’re Next suddenly becomes a wildly entertaining, fun ride. It was absolutely a pleasant surprise and it begs the question of why can’t more horror films be like this.
Then again, that could very well diminish the novelty of Wingard’s take on horror/home invasion movies. For now, I’m perfectly content with the fact that this movie has rekindled my enthusiasm for the genre, and why anyone should pay to see them.
Recommendation: For fans of the genre, this is a must-see. For anyone else who’s dubious about putting themselves through an hour and a half of brutal violence, you should still go see it. Never before has violence and death seemed so. . . necessary? Maybe necessary’s not the right word; but it sure is satisfying watching it here. You’re Next successfully has made a break for a wider audience, and, much like James Wans’ incredibly successful The Conjuring, this film has proven that 2013 has made a concerted effort to add substantial entries into ‘Horror.’
Running Time: 94 mins.
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