Usually, when I become enamored with a horror movie, it’s due to the originality of the premise or the unique way in which it’s executed. By and large, I’m not head over heels otherwise. That being said, despite an occasional lack of originality, You’re Next is a ridiculously fun fright flick that I was able to embrace from the opening sequence right on through to the end credits. Director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Adam Barrett have taken the home invasion premise and shaped it to their liking, the result of which should please just about anyone who digs this sort of thing. By combining some especially effective kills with a genuine sense of tension and the welcome introduction of a unique family dynamic, Wingard and Barrett have crafted something beyond a cult classic in the making. This should be a genre favorite for a while. They also have an incredible leading lady in Sharni Vinson. She absolutely owns the screen and essays one of the most interesting horror heroines in some time. Though not for the squeamish, You’re Next offers something for everyone who digs horror. I surprised myself by loving it as much as I did, and I think you might do the same too…
After a great opening sequence that I won’t spoil for you all, we’re introduced to the family that will wind up being victimized over the course of the film. The Davison clan are gathering for the first time in a while to honor the wedding anniversary of family matriarch Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) and patriarch Paul (Rob Moran). They’ve gotten their sons Crispian (A.J. Bowen), Drake (Joe Swanberg), and Felix (Nicholas Tucci) to come, along with their daughter Aimee (Amy Seimetz). Crispian has brought his new girlfriend Erin (Vinson), while Drake has his wife Kelly (Margaret Laney), Felix has his girlfriend Zee (Wendy Glenn), and Aimee brought her boyfriend Tariq (Ti West). Before long, the boys have descended into petty squabbling, but that’s interrupted by a crossbow attack from outside. A group of men in animal masks are set on murdering everyone in the house, though that doesn’t stop the family from continuing to argue a lot. They’re all pretty hapless though, except Erin, who seems surprisingly capable at fighting off these invaders. As things get progressively bloodier, there are some surprises and we find out just why the family is being targeted, but it’s better to learn all of that on your own. The slight twists that we get there are part of the film’s success.
The performance by Sharni Vinson leads the way, acting wise. She’s easily the best actor in the movie and she just dominates with her work. Vinson is going to be a star before long, mark my words. She’s not only a badass, she has a tremendous screen presence. No one else in the cast comes close to matching her. A.J. Bowen initially appears like our protagonist, and he’s solid, but when the focus of the film shifts, you’re not exactly upset about it. Indie filmmakers Joe Swanberg and Ti West get to have some fun in someone else’s movie, though the former gets a lot more to do than the latter (and is the source of some of the comedy, centered around a wound of his). The other women in the cast, notably Margaret Laney and Amy Seimetz, are under used, though Barbara Crampton and Wendy Glenn fare a little bit better. In terms of the rest of the family, Nicholas Tucci and Rob Moran are fine, while the other members of the cast include Larry Fessenden and even Barrett. Still, as I said above, it’s clearly Sharni Vinson’s show here. I will say this though…the cast does know how to convincingly argue with each other.
Adam Wingard has crafted a hard R horror film that never goes over the edge when it comes to the gore, though he hardly skimps on the violence. He’s just also concerned with the characters being believable, the tension being palpable, and the stakes being higher than usual. In all those ways, Wingard succeeds. Of course, plenty of credit goes to scribe Simon Barrett for coming up with these characters and the situations, but it’s just more evidence that these two make a great team. By focusing on adults instead of teens, you feel like it’s more important that they come out of it alive, so the deaths wind up meaning more. Of course, Barrett and Wingard also manage to have as much fun as they can here without turning things into an overt comedy, so this is hardly a morbid experience. It’s not The Cabin in the Woods (few things are), but there’s plenty of black humor on hand to lighten the mood.
I don’t think that You’re Next is the transformative horror movie for our generation (the aforementioned Cabin holds that honor for me), but it is one of the most purely enjoyable fright flicks to come along in years. It’s really top notch and actually ranks among the 20 best films I’ve seen in 2013 so far. I highly doubt it’ll crack my top ten list, but for a genre offering, it’s pretty damn great. Unless you absolutely can’t deal with horror, I highly recommend checking this one out. It has more to offer than you expect. When a press screening like the one I attended can be as raucous as it was, that’s usually a good sign. My colleagues normally don’t cheer and root on characters in horror movies, so take that as an added recommendation too. Give You’re Next a chance…you won’t regret it.
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!