– Summary –
Director : Adam Wingard
Year Of Release : 2013
Principal Cast : Sharni Vinson, Nicolas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, AJ Bowering, Joe Swanberg, Barbara Crampton, Rob Moran, Amy Seimetz, Ti West.
Approx Running Time : 95 Minutes
Synopsis: A family gathers in their isolated mansion to celebrate, when suddenly they come under attack from a mysterious gang of killers.
What we think : Just when you think You’re Next should pack up and go home, the carnage continues, leaping from violent encounter to blood-soaked attack, all seemingly without purpose until a “you’re freaking kidding me”twist (of course) that wraps things up for a sequel. For gore-hounds there’s plenty to spare here, and for horror genre buffs this film might deliver at least some minor chuckles and jumps, but for the rest of us, You’re Next offers nothing of value and very little of quality.
Aussie chicks will kill ya. Seriously. Don’t screw with ’em.
If you’ve seen the Liv Tyler flick The Strangers, you’ve seen a bloodless version of You’re Next. A home-invasion slasher flick, You’re Next is a low-budget chiller that echoes recent films like The Purge and amps up the gore and lack of focus. I’m all for single-set thrillers, such as Panic Room or Hitchcock’s Rope, but You’re Next feels like a mix of just about every decent genre flick made in the last decade or so. A touch of My Little Eye, perhaps some Halloween, and even a hint of Saw, You’re Next delivers blood and guts, viscera and plenty of screaming, all in a bloody examination of how you just do not f@ck with an Aussie girl. Home invasion films are largely predictable these days, what with the now cliched “he’s behiiiind you” sequences and copious kitchen utensils used as weapons, albeit this film contains at least one character who holds her own in fighting back – not many characters in these kinds of films have any kind of survival instinct (and trust an Aussie to have the only common sense among the cast roster here…. What, are Americans too stupid to live, is that what this film is trying to say? Wait, don’t answer that…) and it’s pleasing to see somebody in one of these films actually capable of using their brain and fighting back. This doesn’t necessarily make the film any better, but it adds some energy to what might be one of the most haphazard and poorly shot films of its kind in recent memory.
Plot synopsis courtesy Wikipedia: The son of a wealthy family, Crispian (A. J. Bowen), along with his girlfriend, Erin (Sharni Vinson), are traveling to his family’s reunion at their remote Missouri vacation house, next door to the scene of the still-undiscovered murders. Also present at the vacation house are Crispian’s parents Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) and Paul (Rob Moran), his brother, Drake (Joe Swanberg), and Drake’s wife, Kelly (Margaret Laney), his other brother, Felix (Nicholas Tucci), and Felix’s girlfriend Zee (Wendy Glenn), and his younger sister Aimee (Amy Seimetz) and her boyfriend Tariq (Ti West). Despite significant tension between the various family members, they gather together for dinner. During an argument at the dinner table though, Tariq is shot in the head by a crossbow bolt and Drake is shot in the back. Finding their cell phones are jammed, Aimee attempts to escape the house to get help but has her throat slashed after running into a garrote wire. Erin begins to organize the family’s defense, while a distraught Aubrey lies down in her bedroom to grieve and rest, but is stabbed in the head with a machete by Fox Mask (Lane Hughes), who was hiding under her bed. While looking for Aubrey, Kelly discovers that Fox Mask is still under the bed, and flees in a panic before being caught and having an axe jammed into her head by Lamb Mask. Having discovered that their cars have been disabled, Crispian flees the property on foot to seek help. As the number of house residents begins to dwindle, it’s up to Erin and her survival skills to save the day.
You’re Next pays homage to its roots with a very Scream-like opening. A couple, post coitus, roam about a darkened house, before both being slaughtered by a mask-wearing assailant. Yup, cue crash-bang opening slasher cliches. The title, “You’re Next”, is drawn from the bloody writing scrawled on the wall to be witnessed by a soon-t0-be-dead character (exactly why would a killer take the time to do that, if everyone who needs to see it is going to be killed?), and in a vaguely similar notion to Urban Legend’s “aren’t you glad you didn’t turn the light on?” motif, elicits minor chills. The fact I’m even mentioning these other films in context with this one indicates just how lazy some of You’re Next’s narrative is. It cribs from so many other films, there never seems to be a spark of originality anywhere in it. If it’s an homage of some kind, I missed the ironic humor. Frankly, You’re Next is a bit of a bore, chore, and snore. The plot, thick with sideways glances and utterly ridiculous “twists”, hammers itself into oblivion with dreadful coincidence and not-quite simplicity, as if written by a high-schooler who’s seen one too many modern horror films.
So you have a family gathering, complete with +1’s in the form of a variety of girlfriends and boyfriends, and the family seems to have more dysfunction than any dreamed up by Seth MacFarlane; it’s in the midst of the first major argument that the killing begins, although even the threat of a crossbow bolt through the skull doesn’t seem to impinge on the snide sniping and sarcasm. Rudimentary characterization takes priority in the film’s opening fifteen or so minutes, setting up the rather hefty character roster (although it’s obvious most won’t make it out alive); it’s to the detriment of the film that a large portion of the cast performances feel forced, wooden, or some mixture of both. Nobody, not even Sharni Vinson, as the lead heroine, can rise to the challenge of a convincing portrayal of people under threat. The cast are a bunch of acting nobodies, and after You’re Next, it’s highly unlikely that’s going to change. Vinson’s commendable, although let down by a mediocre script, but she lacks the feminine kapow of a Sigourney Weaver or Linda Hamilton – which is who it might seem the character of Erin is modeled on.
If you look at the film purely from a shock, schlock viewpoint, You’re Next delivers some minor success. The kills are gratuitous and gory, although it’s primarily the aftermath we witness, rather than the actual event itself. An axe to the head, a slash of the throat, a knife to the eyeball – none of these are terribly thrilling visual experiences in the film, but we do get to see plenty of spilled blood as wounds geyser fluid, weapons are wielded with ferocity and startling accuracy (….not) and characters behave like a bunch of people told how to behave, rather than with any organic fluidity. Director Adam Wingard is obviously a fan of the classic American horror film, and he’s done a great job at riffing on the work of others to create his own movie, but there’s only so much his low budget can accomplish before it runs afoul of entertainment. Made on a shoestring ($1 million, apparently), the B-movie vibe coming from You’re Next almost elevates it into the same rarefied air as The Blair Witch Project or even the original Evil Dead – considering what was accomplished, it’s amazing the film is as good as it is! – but it’s hampered by an oppressive production design and a desperate sense of trying to fit in alongside more expensive projects.
Wingard’s primary failure with You’re Next is the way the film looks. It’s dark, horribly brown, messy and almost amateurish, although a lot of the film’s editing salvages the material from being outright amusing for its inelegance. Shot with that jerky, handcam style which has now become ubiquitous throughout almost every genre, and with a predominance of dull shadow and indistinct mise en scene, the pallid tone and nightmarish ebullience of the nasty, blood-soaked story handicap the film from being a legitimate contender as a genre classic. The film feels tight, with very few wide establishing shots, leaving a lot of scenes without positional context for either characters, or the rooms they are in. I imagine the mansion the movie was shot in is very nice, I just wish I could have seen it. The moody, atmospheric lighting (particularly in the opening scene) generates some tension, but Wingard’s refusal to pull back and allow us the horror of seeing exactly what’s happening is disengaging.
You’re Next had a great deal of potential – it’s a far better film than the pilloried The Purge (rightly so) – although it’s nowhere near the heart-pounding terror of The Strangers, one of the best Home Invasion films I’ve seen in years. As a slasher film, fans can expect some gore and blood, and for those seeking focused horror scares and creeps, I guess You’re Next works on some minor, ineffectual level, but for less discerning viewers, this film has that been-there, done-that feel it simply cannot escape. One can only hope that the inevitable sequel (surely not, right?) might be titled “You’re Last”.
© 2014 – 2018, Rodney Twelftree. All rights reserved.