You're Next Movie Review
Written by Ted McCarthy
Directed by Adam Wingard
Written by Simon Barrett
2011, 96 minutes, Rated R
Sharni Vinson as Erin
AJ Bowen as Crispian
Joe Swanberg as Drake
Nicholas Tucci as Felix
As we all know, effective horror films (meaning, the ones that scare us most) are those that tap into the familiar and make us think twice about the things that would otherwise be second nature to us. Jaws made us uneasy about going for a swim. Psycho made us want to take sponge baths. A Nightmare on Elm Street (and, even more so for me, Invasion of the Body Snatchers) turned our need to sleep into something potentially deadly. They take the mundane and make it terrifying.
One of the most unnerving of horror subgenres is the “home invasion” film. We see our homes as our sanctuaries, our safe havens, the places we can insulate ourselves from the terrors of the outside world. But what if those protective walls suddenly come crashing down, and the terror gets inside? There are tons of films that play on this fear, and many are good at eliciting that feeling of unease once they’re over. The French have made a few amazing ones like Inside, Ils, and High Tension. Over here we’ve had movies like Black Christmas, The Strangers, Straw Dogs and Funny Games. One particular film that made me sleep with the lights on was the little-seen The Poughkeepsie Tapes, which, while not strictly a home invasion movie, had some very scary killer-in-the-house sequences in it.
All of which brings us to the latest entry in this subgenre, You’re Next. Made by the frequent collaborative duo of writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard (V/H/S, A Horrible Way to Die), the film was made in 2011 and received a ton of positive buzz after festival screenings, but for some reason is only getting a general release now, two years later. I’d heard, among other things, that it was a truly different and refreshing horror film that took what we’ve seen before and revolutionized it, so suffice it to say, my hopes were in the stratosphere.
After the opening kill-tease that’s apparently mandatory to secure viewers’ attention nowadays, we get the Davison family arriving at the country home of parents Paul (Rob Moran) and Aubrey (Re-Animator’s Barbara Crampton) for a weekend getaway to celebrate Paul and Aubrey’s wedding anniversary. The family is fleshed out well, with some kids thrilled to be there, and some not so much. The most antagonistic relationship is between brothers Drake (Joe Swanberg) and Crispian (A.J. Bowen), who’s brought along his new fiancé Erin (Sharni Vinson). Soon enough, though, the tranquility is shattered when the family dinner is interrupted by a series of arrows being shot through the windows and the house comes under siege by a group of animal-masked assailants. From there, it becomes a fight for the Davisons to keep the killers from getting in and figure out who they are and what they want.
The setup is simple and actually could have had the potential to be quite boring by sinking to a familiar stalk-and-slash level. However, the filmmakers throw in two twists to liven things up. One is a revelation of the killers’ motives (that they even have one already sets it apart from movies like Ils or The Strangers), which unfortunately really didn’t shock me. The other I’ll keep mum about, except to say that someone’s survival instincts turn the third act into sort of a blood-soaked homage to Home Alone (which, if you think about it, is really a home invasion movie itself). The kills are brutal, but save for one that borders on out-of-place silliness, none are particularly inventive.
Wingard has assembled a crew of familiar performers (Swanberg, Bowen, and Amy Seimetz were all in his 2010 film A Horrible Way to Die), but ones that actually have acting chops. There are of course a couple exceptions, like Ti West as Tariq, the scarf-wearing indie filmmaker – really? – who thankfully makes an early exit (not a spoiler, you can see it in the trailer). Aussie newcomer Vinson gets the best role, however, keeping a cool head and coming into her own later in the film.
Overall, You’re Next isn’t the horror game-changer that a lot of pre-release buzz was making it out to be, and a few people I talked to after my screening were actually quite disappointed. And while it wasn’t nearly enough to make me double check my locks at night, it was a solid effort for what could have been a throwaway genre entry.