Stars: Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, AJ Bowen, Wendy Glenn, Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz, Ti West, Rob Moran, Barbara Crampton | Written by Simon Barrett | Directed by Adam Wingard
Having had a fairly hectic day at work, I was very much looking forward to attending the screening of You’re Next recently. Few things can loosen the brain up like a good old fashioned slasher movie and I was relishing the thought of ninety-six minutes of thrills and kills. Directed by Adam Wingard (VHS, A Horrible Way to Die) and set during a family reunion in a remote part of the countryside in the US, You’re Next sees the moneyed Davison family besieged by lunatic killers in creepy animal masks. Fortunately, it turns out that Erin, the girlfriend of one of the eldest brother is something of a total badass herself and is soon rallying the family around to fight back with makeshift weaponry and traps. Thus begins a small scale war with their attackers. Who will survive and what will be left of them?
Despite my initial excitement, I was actually fairly nonplussed by You’re Next at first. It seemed fairly stolid, with broadly drawn characters and an uninventive set up. If I had to pin point where my attitude towards it changed, it would probably be where at the height of a ludicrously petty argument around the dinner table (listen out for some of the exchanges here), one member of the extended Davison clan (played by horror director Ti West) is suddenly shot through the head by a crossbow bolt. At first, this goes unnoticed, heightening the ridiculousness of the situation, but before long the Davisons are shrieking and being punctured and the film retains this level of excitement throughout. I realised that what I was watching was in fact a comedy so black, it was bordering on farce.
Instead of the stodgy, unremarkable horror I thought I had been watching, You’re Next displayed genre smarts and a level of self-awareness that is all too lacking in most horror films. The film plays delightfully with the concept of Chekhov’s gun and leaves the audience on tenterhooks for much of its running time, embracing and ridiculing conventions equally. The cast, which includes cult heroes Joe Swanberg and Barbara Crampton, seemed to be having riotously good fun and played their roles with relish.
Much of the goodwill I have for the film should also be accredited to its heroine, as played by Sharni Vinson, previously best known for her work on gritty horrors Home and Away and Step Up 3D. Her portrayal of Erin as the plucky and likable though simultaneously borderline psychotic protagonist is measured and deft; by the time the film reaches its climax and Erin is striking iconic, axe-wielding final girl poses, the audience and I were pretty much cheering her every move and you got the feeling a potential cult-horror hero had been born. The deaths she deals are by turns imaginative, amusing and thoroughly gruesome.
It should also be said that whilst the film completely embraces its trashy fittings, the cinematography is a class above what you might typically expect (credit due to Andrew Palmero). Mads Heldtberg’s doomy and inventive music is also very commendable.
To nit-pick, you could argue that the film’s twist is utterly predictable and if you’re watching it without acknowledging the tongue it has placed in its cheek, you may find it a bit run of the mill. However, everyone loves a good home invasion movie (heck, even James Bond got in on the act in his last outing) and it would be very difficult to harbour any ill-will towards one as fun and shrewd as this one would be particularly rude. Seek it out and get ready to cheer on the kick-arse Vinson as she delivers sublimely violent justice.
You’re Next is released in the UK on August 30th.