Just the title alone means business, and sounds like something from the Scream franchise will be re-enacted here. However, this is a smarter-than-average and well-paced home invasion horror that has both gore and sniggers from horror filmmaking duo, director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett, who reunite several cast members from their 2010 film, A Horrible Way To Die.
Wealthy family, the Davisons comes together to celebrate the 35th wedding anniversary of the parents, Paul (Rob Moran) and Aubrey (Barbara Crampton), in its large and secluded country mansion, unware that the neighbours down the road have been slain earlier in the evening. The family just sits down to its meal when the fraught reunion is bloodily and abruptly ended by the gang of mysterious masked killers responsible for the neighbours’ grizzly deaths. Under siege, they try fighting for their lives while attempting to work out why they are being targeted.
You’re Next does feel somewhat fresher than the slasher norm, but only after the initial sacrifice sets the tone of brutality for the battle ahead. It’s the only indication we have as to the kind of menace the family faces and it doesn’t hold back. The film then follows the usual pattern of delivering certain cast members that are ideal victim fodder as they are so disagreeable, such as sarcastic troublemaker, eldest brother Drake (indie filmmaker Joe Swanberg) and his caustic other-half Kelly (Margaret Laney) and annoying American Pie cutesy (and Daddy’s girl) Aimee (Amy Seimetz).
The rest of the bunch include a couple of shadier characters, including younger brother Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and his unsually quiet goth pal Zee (Wendy Glenn). Aimee also brings along arty underground documentary filmmaker Tariq (real-life horror flick maker Ti West) – probably to rile the oldies – who is instantly identified as one of the first for the chop as he utters self-dilusional drivel. In fact, the standard cinematic cliches prevail for why this family need culling: arrogance/indifference, vast wealth and being socially inept, except among like-minded, priveledged peers. It also speaks volumes about the filmmakers’ views on America’s overseas military offensive, with the patriarch being a recently retired arms expert – the irony of which is not lost in the ensuing fight and choice of weaponry.
The only supposed agreeable ones of the group are Crispian (A.J. Bowen) and his friendly and confident Aussie girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson). It’s clear these two are to play a major part and both actors do well to mould their characters beyond the stereotypical. However, Wingard and Barrett make an unlikely hero of the pack, nevertheless, who fast becomes the film’s key point of fascination. This character then presents us with an intriguing array of survival techniques, should any of us find otherselves in the midst of a murderous home attack. In a sense, there is more to enjoy than just the usual body pile-up for genre fans.
On top of the survival training, Wingard and Barrett throw in twist after final twist to keep things from being merely another hunting expedition around a large abode. Old grievances muddy the picture, even de-demonising the attackers at one stage, suggesting they are also victims. There is a healthy sense of female aptitude to the situation, too. It’s all a clever and continual to-and-fro play on our ingrained genre assertions, adding to the film’s freshness.
The great production values demonstrate that both director and writer are cinematographers as well, with some well-framed and lit shots. In fact, rather than being presented with endless creepy, shadowy takes for evil to lurk and jump out – though it naturally has these too, a lot of the more shocking carnage is played out in full overhead lighting. There is a frank appeal to the whole affair that leaves nothing to the imagination, even with SFX at play.
You’re Next shakes up the genre after a raft of recent contenders, such as the slicker-looking (but less effective) The Purge. Wingard and Barrett have also thought about delivering other areas of interest (such as the survival tips) while keeping true to the genre and splashing out on gore. The end result is an unlikely sense of horror innovation with the bloodletting familiar still present. You’re Next is certainly a cut and slash above the rest and well worth a butchers.
By Lisa Giles-Keddie