‘You’re Next’

You're Next

You’re Next (2013) — Directed by Adam Wingard. Starring Sharni Vinson, A. J. Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Barbara Crampton, Nicholas Tucci, Rob Moran, Wendy Glenn, Lane Hughes, L.C. Holt, Simon Barrett.

Aubrey and Paul Davison are celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary at an enormous vacation home along with their four children, many of whom haven’t seen each other in years. Crispian Davison (AJ Bowen) tells his girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson) that he anticipates a great deal of tension among the siblings. Sure enough, Crispian’s brother Drake (Joe Swanberg) starts right in on picking on his brother. But before the familial tensions can start to fully boil over at the dinner table, the Davisons find themselves under violent attack by men in animal masks armed with machetes, axes, and a crossbow.

You’re Next is the latest film from indie horror filmmaker Adam Wingard. As well as a handful of other movies I have not seen, he directed the framing story in V/H/S and the letter ‘Q’ segment in ABCs of Death. You’re Next made some of the festival rounds in 2011, debuting at that year’s Toronto International Film Festival, and was then picked up by Lionsgate for a major theatrical release. Way to go, Adam!

But I knew none of this going in to see the movie and not much more about the content of the film other than the premise. The trailer had me expecting something with the dark, tense atmosphere of The Strangers but instead I found a funny, bloodier, and more thrilling take on a home invasion flick… sort of like a more violent Home Alone.

To be frank, I couldn’t stand the first act of the film. The setup of the fractured family hit all the wrong notes. The tension among the siblings, particularly between Crispian and his older brother Drake (played by Joe Swanberg, who is apparently a big name in the field of ‘mumblecore’ films), seemed so forced and poorly written that it plays like one of those SNL skits. Nor did I feel the kind of dread and anxiety that I expected in a home invasion film. You’re Next is nowhere near as disturbing or tense as The Strangers. I was starting to wonder if I had already seen the best this premise has to offer.

I also found frustrating the use of shaky-cam shots during the initial attack. It’s a technique that is so overused at this point that it’s no longer as effective, or as well done, as when it was used in Saving Private Ryan. Luckily these shots are brief and disappear later on in the film but their presence early on was discouraging.

But I was still having a good time in between the rolling my eyes and slapping my forehead. If I wasn’t engaging with it on its own level at least I could laugh at it. And Barbara Crampton still looks great almost thirty years after Re-Animator. But around the midpoint of You’re Next, as the body count starts to ramp up, Crispian’s girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson) takes over, utilizing her childhood survivalist training to protect herself and the surviving Davisons.

Okay, that sounds a bit ridiculous after having typed it out but it works great on screen. It helps that Sharni Vinson is fantastic as Erin, making the survivalist angle believable with the intense focus and physicality she brings to the role. Erin approaches the attack pretty much the way one would hope to if they found themselves in the same situation. She stays calm and quickly pieces together strategies, both defensive and offensive, to protect the home. And when she launches into action Sharni brings her physical talents as a dancer to the mix. Well, she’s not dancing her battles or anything, but.. oh, you know what I mean.

You’re Next doesn’t shy from the bloodshed either. With so many family members it’s a target rich environment and if you think you’re getting away with only a couple of offscreen deaths you’ve come to the wrong movie. The kills are noisy and bloody, just the way they should be in a film like this. There’s even a great hit with a blender that’s one of the most creative kills I’ve seen onscreen in a while. It’s all done with a sharp sense of humor that manages to avoid being tasteless. Well, unless you already find this kind of thing tasteless.

Genre fans should definitely check this one out. I’ll have to give it another go myself, perhaps after it’s released on video, and see if the first part of the movie plays better now that my expectations are different. It could be that You’re Next had its tongue planted deeper in its cheek than I knew. And even if the first act ends up being worse on a second viewing, Sharni Vinson’s amazing performance is worth experiencing again.

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2 Responses to “‘You’re Next’”

  1. Michael K. Vaughan Says:

    But the masks! How were the creepy masks!? I have heard two people talk about this movie. Neither one could remember the title. It was just “that movie with the dudes in the creepy animal masks.”

  2. The masks were not as creepy as they could have been but serviceable.

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