You’re Next Review: It’s Home Invasion, Jim, But Not As We Know it

You’re Next is the latest feature from up-and-coming director Adam Wingard, whose back catalogue includes everything from horrific gore-fests (Home Sick, A Horrible Way to Die) to relationship pieces (Autoerotic, for which he shares a directorial credit with indie audience-splitter Joe Swanberg, who appears in You’re Next). It’s great to see a director who refuses to limit himself to one genre, but on the evidence of his latest effort, Mr Wingard would do well to stick to horror…

Youre-Next

You’re Next sees a somewhat dysfunctional (aren’t they always?) family come together for a reunion. Four siblings – each with a lover in tow – gradually arrive at the impressive home of their well-off parents. They trade banalities, barbed questions and thinly veiled unpleasantries…up until the point that their evening is rudely interrupted by a bolt from the blue. Literally. What ensues is one of the most twisty, playful and downright enjoyable horror films in recent memory.

The quality of the film owes a lot to its various components, which together make up a final piece greater than its indie credentials. The little-known cast members do a solid job with some tricky material and dialogue that plays fast-and-loose with dark humour and familial tensions. Joe Swanberg in particular continues his strong run of playing guys you kind of want to punch in the face, and Sharni Vinson is an exciting bag of tricks in her role as one of the better halves caught up in petty family politics. As the film moves along, Vinson transforms into one of the most engaging characters in horror movie history. To say much more would veer dangerously close to spoiler territory, but you’ll certainly be rooting for the hero come the final showdown.

You're NextThat’s not to say that the “good guys” have all the fun. The masked intruders certainly provide ample terror for the most part, with a typically lurching and ghost-like presence common to most home invasion movies. The camera work and direction manage to amplify their presence, with masks seemingly disembodied in darkness and dull thuds of axes embedded into skulls ensuring that their violence is not glamorised, but truly felt. It’s not until an attempted breach of the house that the film takes a somewhat surprising, albeit hugely entertaining, turn. When the first drop of villainous blood is spilled, You’re Next becomes a guessing-game of a picture. Characters reveal new flaws and skills, the humour goes from dark to pitch-black, and the violence is presented gleefully. Realistic execution-style deaths are slowly replaced by use of kitchen appliances that are certainly not detailed in their manuals, as well as some cringe-worthy ineptitude with improvised methods of murder. In fact, as the final act comes hurtling at you, you may just find yourself thinking that You’re Next owes as much to the influence Home Alone as it does to any horror film.

That’s not to say that there isn’t more to You’re Next than typical slasher/home invasion tropes. You always feel that one character in particular will survive this ordeal (even that expectation is playfully teased in the final confrontation dialogue), but you’re always left wondering who will actually survive. Being wounded early on does not mean that the enemy will not get you again, bereavement for a partner is not milked for tragedy and motives are not always clear – just when you think the twist has been revealed, the rug is pulled from under you again. The hero has a background that makes for a fair fight with the masked men, and the music creeps from percussive horror to Big Trouble in Little China style helpings of thudding synthesisers. Even the “bad guys” are used effectively to create the kind of personality and pathos you wouldn’t typically get in two-dimensional enemies like those in more generic horror pictures.

You’re Next isn’t afraid of crossing genre lines. Writer Simon Barrett, in another successful horror team-up with Adam Wingard after the twisty A Horrible Way to Die, deftly brings in elements of thriller and Festen-lite drama to great effect. There may come a point when the film indulges in its own malleability a little too excitedly, but excess is not necessarily a bad thing in a film that is not shy about its intentions. From its provocative title to its willingness to take typical genre aspects (woods, large empty house etc) through the ringer, You’re Next is a genuinely involving thrill-ride. It’s the most fun I can remember having at the cinema for some time, and a shot-in-the-arm to a genre that was stingingly, and lovingly, satirised by The Cabin in the Woods. Think Funny Games turned up to eleven, without Michael Haneke’s wagging his finger at you – or the rewind button – and you’ve got You’re Next… kind of. Thoroughly recommended.

Rating:

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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6 Comments

  1. C.Bell.
    0

    I saw this film last night with my teenage granddaughter.

    She wanted to be scared by a “horror” movie, and it managed to turn her head a time or two. For me the sound, music and sound effects were the best part of the movie. The sound actually works a positive in the film.
    It wasn’t far into the film that my granddaughter turned to me and apologized about her choice for the night’s entertainment.

    There’s simply too much in senseless writing, amateur acting, and near sickening jerky camera work in this film to justify any higher rating from me. I give it a two and a half.

    • David Tatlow

      I did mean to suggest that there were some jerky/flashing scenes in my review. It certainly made me feel a little queasy. I definitely enjoyed the overall effect that the sound had on the film.

      I think that the writing was a lot better than many other bigger budget horror/thriller movies, and the acting had some real strong points. There wasn’t a lot for many of the characters to do, but the leads were solid and sometimes impressive. As I said, many have done much worse, and I think that “senseless” is not the right word to use to criticise the writing. The film sometimes revels in teetering on the edge of senseless, and it has a lot of aspects that you wouldn’t normally expect in a home invasion movie, which work in its favour for me, but won’t necessarily be another person’s cup of tea. Thanks for reading.

  2. wendell
    0

    Nice review but Youre Next felt like a college film class project rather than a movie. The director also made VHS which is another overrated film he made with a handheld camera. I saw Sinister last night and loved it. Thats how a proper horror film is made. It had a scary soundtrack along with a great build. Youre Next is a netflix movie or something you watch at a college film festival.

    • David Tatlow

      I think that “feel” is something that I really embraced. It felt to me like Wingard was working with no one looking over his shoulder telling him what he can and can’t do. That kind of dogged enthusiasm is something that I found to be infectious, and I really bought in to the no-holds-barred, anything-goes style. I do enjoy that handheld camera aesthetic too – it makes a film seem that much more involving, especially when it comes to the terror on show here. I believe Wingard directed the “Tape 56” section of the film, which was mostly used to tie the theme together. Again, with V/H/S, I got the feeling that the guys working on it were off-the-leash and were given total freedom to have fun with their ideas. I liked seeing that as those “shorts” could have been 5 longer, and potentially less effective, films. It’s the same opinion I have of Love Actually. Those rom-com stories, when distilled down to their core elements, have significantly more impact than the 8 or so terrible rom-coms they could have been separately.
      I thought Sinister was hit-and-miss. Totally agree that the soundtrack and sound in general were top-notch, and it lends a lot of credibility to a film like that when you have someone like Ethan Hawke involved. However I found that the videos he found were much scarier than the rest of the film. Plus you’ve got that totally unnecessary jump scare at the end of the film that felt cheap and unearned. It also kind of copped-out with the “monster” – to me he just looked like a WWE wrestler. I’m a firm believer in something that my grandfather used to say to me whenever I got scared of ghosts and other things when I was a kid, and I’m not sure where he got it from, but he used to say “it’s the living, not the dead, you should be afraid of”. Even though it was ZERO comfort to an already terrified eight year old, it sticks with me today when I look at horror. The fact that there are people out there who would do me harm in a place I thought was safe is much more unsettling than something that may or may not exist, depending on your opinion of the supernatural. Thanks very much for contributing – it’s great to get discussion going.

  3. I liked this better than The Conjuring (even though The Conjuring wasn’t good IMO that was higher quality) but it wasn’t anything special. Gory, visually stunning, some dark humor and an awesome score but…that’s really it to it.

    • David Tatlow

      Those attributes you’ve mentioned are some of the film’s strengths for sure, and for some that would be enough to call this a good film. I thought that there was a lot more to it, as I’ve said in my review, but I’m glad you’ve pointed to the positives. Thanks for reading.

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