You’re Next (2011)
You’re Next, while not necessarily startlingly original, does what most horror films these days fail to do; it entertains, it provides characters to invest in, adds in some genuinely funny dialogue and actually spins a few conventions on their heads in the process. No mean feat.
The basic premise is much like any other home invasion; a well heeled family get together on their parents wedding anniversary, seemingly to drink, bicker and, in this instance, serve as fodder for some crossbow wielding, animal mask wearing psychopaths.
The pre-amble is brief, but is so well written that even in the short space of time that we get to know our characters, they all feel remarkably well fleshed out. In just ten minutes we get a brilliantly clear sense of who everyone is, the roles they play within the family unit and what flaws they might be hiding from everyone else.
The night begins like any other; matriarch Aubrey thanks her dinner guests in a heartfelt outburst that will endear her to even the hardest of hearts, and as the family sit down for dinner, the rivalries, jealousy and resentment come to the surface in a brilliantly entertaining few minutes. Before long though, Ti West (in the douchiest cameo of all time) notices something is not as it should be outside before promptly taking an arrow to the face.
As the family descend into hysteria, more arrows are fired into the house and it quickly becomes clear that this is no normal night. It’s not long before the family realise that their ordeal is far from over and with things going from bad to worse, someone needs to step up and take charge.
On paper, You’re Next is a home invasion movie like any other. The characters here are where things really start to diverge from the cliched norm though. They are all so utterly flawed, some even cloying, but you can’t help but love them as if they were your own dysfunctional family (well, with the exception of Ti West and his awful scarf). It’s testament to Simon Barrett’s skillful writing that these, often irritating bunch of people, become genuinely endearing.
The cast is great too. It’s also pretty familiar to anyone who’s seen an independent horror movie that’s been made in the last five years. We’ve got heavy hitters like the incredible, genre stalwart Barbara Crampton as the outwardly perfect, but pill-popping Mom, adorable everyman AJ Bowen, vulnerable Amy Siemetz, smug goon Joe Swanberg, the list goes on, and they all play their roles insanely well. No names I could drop, however, would change the fact that this is very much the Sharni Vinson Show. ‘Erin’ is a character that’s written in such a way that she’s not the “strong woman” that we’re used to seeing and that never rings true, she’s normal. She’s the sort of girl I’d want to hang out with, but that also, as a sidenote, happens to kick major arse. Her physical strength isn’t the focus here, it’s just one facet of her personality as a three-dimensional character, and that’s the genius of You’re Next‘s wonderful characterization.
Shifting the focus from Barrett onto Adam Wingard for a second, the direction is great. Not only that but it’s paired fantastically well with the script too. There are no showy shots here, there’s even some mildly annoying handheld footage to emphasise the more chaotic scenes, but it all looks brilliant. It’s basic, but tremendously effective filmmaking and there are definite moments of quiet genius. After the subdued A Horrible Way To Die, involvement in the V/H/S franchise, and now You’re Next, I’m intrigued to see what Wingard will come up with next.
With the masked intruder angle, You’re Next is bound to garner comparison to films like The Strangers, but while sane audiences wanted to strangle Liv Tyler for her ridiculously poor decision making skills, you can’t help but side with the family here who react like normal people would, in an extreme situation. It all makes sense and that’s so rare for this type of movie but it proves that it is possible!
You’re Next isn’t without its problems, but the film itself is such an accomplished, enjoyable and rousing piece of horror cinema that it’d feel pointless to concentrate on the few flaws. This is what horror fans have been saying they want for years now, and it’s been delivered on a silver platter. Enjoy it. Then enjoy it again.
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