When the Davison family comes under attack during their wedding anniversary getaway, the gang of mysterious killers soon learns that one of victims harbors a secret talent for fighting back.
An unexpected mélange of “The Strangers“, “Straw Dogs“ and “Home Alone“, director Adam Wingard’s “You’re Next” is one of the most bracing and exciting films of the year! As written by Simon Barrett, it tells the story of an anniversary celebration gone terribly wrong when masked killers suddenly attack the party for no obvious rhyme or reason. What follows is a smorgasbord of over the top violence accompanied by some funny bits in between that had the audience I saw it with eating out of it’s lap minutes after it began. And that’s where we all stayed until the very last image flickered off of the screen…
What makes the film so much fun (& I’m using the word fun subjectively) is it’s hurry to get to the meat & potatoes of the plot. There isn’t a lot of dialog clouding things up as the film begins, we see two people senselessly murdered (Nice cameo from director Larry Fessenden here). And then we meet the Davison family: Aubrey (A nearly unrecognizable Barbara Crampton) and Paul (Rob Moran) are celebrating their anniversary and are headed towards their estate to celebrate with their children and their respective partners as well, Crispian (A.J. Bowen) & Erin (Sharni Vinson), Felix (Nicholas Tucci) & Zee (Wendy Glenn), Drake (Joe Swanberg) & Kelly (Margaret Laney) followed by Aimee (Amy Seimetz) & Tariq (Ti West). None of the characterizations are initially surprising here as the family runs the usual gamut from the nerdy brother (Crispian) to the bully (Drake) to the slightly off center (Felix), sister Kelly seems to be the most normal of the quartet but she doesn’t factor into the proceedings for very long anyway. Their Mother Aubrey is a bit high strung and father Paul just wants to enjoy his retirement in peace. The family feels like it’s been lifted out of a Woody Allen film of the 80’s as a matter of fact, full of long festering neuroses and tightly kept secrets.
But as I said earlier, the film doesn’t take too much time dwelling on any of that as they’re attacked while having dinner. Someone with a crossbow is using the gathered family as target practice from a distance and once the arrows start flying the people start dying! The film takes on a sort of Agatha Christie-ish Ten Little Indians feel as one by one, the characters start falling by the wayside. And toss any expectations you have of who’s going to survive and who isn’t out the door before you settle down to watch this movie. No one is safe here and when they die, they die horribly violent & gory deaths. No blood is spared in this film.
The twist here is that one of the supposed victims, Erin, isn’t having any of it! She wants to live and takes up whatever arms handy to ensure that if she’s gonna go down, she’s gonna go down fighting. Sharni Vinson is not only gorgeous but she’s a damn fine actress as well! As Erin she goes from light, airy & loving to downright angry, vicious & bloodthirsty in a matter of minutes. She also seems to know how to handle herself pretty well with a hammer but the film offers no clue as to if she’s been trained in combat whatsoever. She just goes into action and doesn’t let up until the bloody finale.
As it turns out there is a reason as to why the family has been chosen for elimination but you’ll have to see the movie for yourself to find out exactly what that reason is. What I can say is that one of the problems I had with “You’re Next” is that I found it all terribly predictable. Within 20 minutes I had the whole plot in my head and I knew exactly what was going to happen and this was disappointing to me. Even though Screenwriter Barrett puts a slightly different spin on it, the big reveal wasn’t a surprise to me but that might just be an example of someone (Like me) who’s literally seen thousands of films in his lifetime and might be a bit jaded. Then again maybe it’s just lazy script writing…I dunno.
In the end it doesn’t really matter too much because the film rocks regardless of whatever shortcomings I might’ve perceived. It moves at a breakneck pace and never gives the audience a chance to get comfortable as it races towards the finale. It’s full of the prerequisite jump scares that you’re expecting and it features a really hip 80’s slasher film sounding soundtrack (From Mads Heldtberg, Jasper Justice Lee & Kyle McKinnon) that had me reminiscing of the good ole days when Fred Krueger and Jason Voorhees were the big names in town. The whole film is essentially a nod to slasher films of the 70’s & 80’s and the propulsive soundtrack helps move the proceedings along very nicely indeed. The grisly sound effects (You haven’t heard an ax get embedded in someone’s head like you do in this movie…trust me) really help sell the deaths and the makeup EFX are gory enough for the most slavish fans of the red stuff as well.
Besides (What I found to be) the predictability of the script, there isn’t really too much that’s wrong with “You’re Next”. It’s an exciting, violent and gory thriller that satisfies on a visceral if not thematic level. It’s also the best audience participation film I’ve seen in ages! Some of the performances are a bit uneven but that doesn’t serve as any detriment to the film whatsoever as most of the characters get whittled away in a fairly straightforward fashion pretty quickly. The final scene is an especially funny one and is a fitting end to what felt like a roller coaster ride of terror! The end credits are unique as well and pay tribute to a little seen (but fondly remembered by those of us who did see it) film of the 70’s that shall remain nameless here. Watch them and see if you know what film I’m talking about!
“You’re Next” – Four out of five shrouds.
You’re Next (2011)