You’re Next (2013)
8/10 Animal Houses
More of this, please.
You’re Next is about an Australian gal who drives out to the country for her boyfriend’s family reunion. Everyone’s there and, as expected, no one’s getting along. They try to play nice for the sake of their parents, but things come to a head during the first family dinner. Brothers are yelling, parents are upset and one of the new boyfriends gets an arrow between his eyes. Once everyone realizes that Tariq’s been assassinated, it puts things into perspective right quick. Panic sets in and they batten down the hatches, but as this family tree gets shorter and shorter, this charming girl from a land down under becomes their best hope for survival.
First, it was The Strangers. Then, it was The Purge. Going off that synopsis, it might not sound like You’re Next is doing much to distance itself from such a disappointing lot. Going off that synopsis, it’s another home invasion movie starring dudes in creepy masks. Under someone else’s direction, you’d probably be right and this vicious cycle of mediocrity would continue on. But thanks to Adam Wingard, it’s good be wrong.
If you haven’t been introduced, Adam Wingard is part of this budding horror collective of sorts that’s been giving us winners like The House of the Devil and V/H/S/2 as of late. While his contribution to the latter wasn’t exactly the standout of the bunch (not enough demon births), it was a solid 15 minutes and a fitting precursor to what he brings to You’re Next.
Now, if there’s anything I’ve learned from The Cabin in the Woods and all the folks that I recommended it to last year, it’s that horror comedies aren’t for everyone. It makes me sad, but I get it. Sometimes, when all you want to do is have the crap scared out of you and into your knickers, running gags from start to end can really kill the mood. Even at its best, it can be a hard balance to strike and an even harder one to sell. So if there’s anything I can say to dissuade you bloodthirsty boys and girls from writing this off as a sheep in wolf’s clothing, it’s that You’re Next is a horror movie, no doubt about it.
As I already mentioned and likely didn’t need to, a lot of people bite it in this movie. Oh it’s gnarly alright, but not just because of how these siblings get offed (though that’s certainly a key factor). Usually in situations like these, the people that die are horny-ass teens too stupid to live. The kicker here is that everyone’s family, so when one of their crew dies, it makes for one hell of a ripple effect.
Pretty ballsy move to go down this road, but that’s why the humor works as well as it does. Trust me, watching this family break down as their sibling/child/significant other bleeds out in the foyer is no laughing matter. It’s some pretty heavy shit. It’s not like Wingard cues up the Benny Hill song every time someone gets an ax to the noggin, but if the laughs weren’t there to lighten the mood, this would be a pretty depressing affair. Rest assured, it’s still quite suspenseful and it’s certainly quite brutal. The laughs aren’t here to screw that up, but they sure work wonders to keep the mellows from harshing.
Speaking of dead relatives, another big bonus is that these characters aren’t stupid. The reasons they keep on dying an’t because they always go into That Room when they really shouldn’t go into That Room. Death becomes them because they’re either in panic mode (an understandable reaction) or the bad guys are one step ahead of them. Not only does this make their demises that much more of a bummer, but it saves my eyes having to roll back into my brain. Rough as it may be, using family members as sitting ducks is a surprisingly effective way to make minor characters matter.
But that’s not even the best part. The best part is the one character here who isn’t a sitting duck.
See that ax-toting Australian badass down there? That’s Erin, and someone ought to give Wingard a high-thirty for not making her a dude. Get Sharni Vinson in on that action for playing her, too. She’s cool under pressure, she’s got skills to the kill the Bills (just go with it) and, best of all, she doesn’t need some douchebag guy to protect her. It’s the first time since maybe Scream that I’ve seen a woman beat the marrow out of her would-be killer like this, which is both phenomenal and disappointing. Man, I am such a sucker for strong, confident, smart women in any walk of life, and film is a world that could always use more.
As for the aforementioned would-be killers, how great are those get-ups? Those things speak for themselves. Love it.
You’re Next is just a really fun movie to play along with. It was fun to keep guessing who was masterminding it all, to jump and laugh at all the same parts with everyone else in the theater. It was a beautiful thing, really, which is something given how gory it tends to be.
If you’re the kind of person who sleeps with one eye open and a gun under your pillow, then I imagine You’re Next will be the scariest goddamn thing you’ve ever seen. If you’re more in the market for big scares and cheap thrills, you might be better off with something like The Conjuring. Not that you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, it did make me yell “JESUS!” once. But the reason my wife and I had such freaking blast with this movie isn’t because of all the times that it goosed us. You’re Next is a blast because I was plugging my ears from one scene to the next, because I didn’t have to yell at the people on the screen, because I was quoting it and chuckling on the whole drive home.
It’s a new-school take on old-school horror that does a lot of things well and isn’t frustrating in the slightest. May not sound like much, but believe you me, it’s one of the best horror movies I’ll see all year.
Hell of a time.