A lot has been said about You’re Next revolutionizing the horror genre or, at the very least being a game changer.  Right up front, I can tell you – this is not true, which is absolutely not a knock on the film.  It’s just that labels such as these are virtually unachievable and very few movies ever reach that status.  Having said that, I don’t believe that this was the filmmakers’ intention.  What they have done, however, is create a very well made, smart, funny, unique entry into the home invasion genre, that also just happens to be one of the best horror movies I have seen in years.

The Davison siblings, along with their significant others, all gather for their parents’ wedding anniversary at the family’s country home.  Past rivalries and unresolved arguments start to resurface, threatening to ruin the family reunion.  Even worse, the house comes under siege by a trio of masked killers that start picking the cast off, one by one.

First and foremost, I was surprised (pleasantly) by just how funny the movie is.  That’s not a conclusion that you’d necessarily draw from previews, but it goes a long way in tempering the horror.  It’s certainly not a comedy by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re able to strike a perfect balance of brutality and dark humor to really keep you invested.

You’re Next
Directed by
Adam Wingard
Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, AJ Bowen
Release Date
23 August, 2013
Influx Grade: A-

The acting is top notch all around.  It’s very nice to see 80’s scream queen Barbara Crampton return to her horror roots as the matriarch of the family (looking not a day older than she did in her Re-Animator, From Beyond, and Chopping Mall days – if you weren’t paying attention, you’d be forgiven for assuming that she plays one of the daughters).  Also, of note, are A.J. Bowen as the picked upon brother and particularly Joe Swanberg as the picker-onner.  Their exchanges provide much of the early humor, and Swanberg in particular is able to translate that likeability into pathos as the ordeal moves on.  The entire family is portrayed quite convincingly – you’ll believe that these people have history.  The great chemistry on display also helps up the ante when the true terror begins.  Because the victims all (for the most part) care deeply for each other, you will do the same.

As good as everyone else is, by far the best performance is given by Sharni Vinson (click here for my interview with the Sharni) as Erin, as the girlfriend to one of the brothers, understandably nervous to meet her significant other’s family for the first time.  Most movies of this ilk require a ‘final girl’ for audiences to identify with, but you really haven’t seen one quite like Erin.  I certainly don’t want to spoil much, but it’s fair to say that Erin is not going to accept her fate without a fight.  Vinson is excellent at portraying a character that fits into our expectations perfectly early on, and then surprises us, her fellow characters, and even herself when she makes a drastic shift in performance around the time that the first act is ending.  It’s her character that is, deservedly, getting the most press and is truly what makes this film stand out from the pack.

You’re Next has a lot of fun playing with horror conventions (we, the audience, being one of those conventions).  Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett have us exactly where they want us at the beginning – there’s no early indication that this will be any different than other films of the home invasion subgenre (the opening scene is creepy, but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before).  But, don’t get comfortable – you’ll soon be thrown for a loop.  The deaths are often brutal, but don’t necessarily come how and when we expect them to (an early slow motion scene is particularly successful in its tease and eventual payoff).

The animal masks worn by our killers create a sense of dread that’s punctuated by quite a few well placed and well earned jump scares (the screams you let out will be genuine – no cat hiding in the closet here).  Once motivations and identities start to become established for the men behind the masks, we certainly lose some of the tension (there’s just something about not knowing), as we go from a slasher vibe to more of a revenge thriller, but the film’s smart script and tight direction are still more than able to bring us home satisfactorily.  An additional complaint could be lodged in that the jarring effect of what could have been an incredibly shocking early kill is completely ruined by the fact that we’ve all seen it in the trailers and will see it coming.  You can hardly blame it on the filmmakers, but I can’t help but wish that I had been as surprised as the fellow actors.

If you ignore the hype and just go in expecting a good time, you’ll be more than pleased with You’re Next.  Familiar conventions pave the way for unique takes on those conventions that will keep you intrigued until the end.  For horror fans, there is a pretty high body count for a movie with such a limited number of cast members and there are enough twists and turns (maybe one too many actually) to keep you guessing until the end.  Sharni Vinson’s performance is sure to be a star-maker,  and is reason enough to highly recommend you check it out.  You’ll laugh, you’ll scream, you’ll cover your eyes, and, many times you’ll even want to stand up and cheer.

Review by Influx Staff