There’s much that’s familiar about low-budget horror You’re Next: the masked killers, the improvised weapons, the bickering survivors, the remote setting. But director Adam Wingard injects both a playfulness and a Giallo-like sense of mystery to his home-invasion slasher, and the result is refreshingly economical and direct.
In an unfeasibly large, austere country mansion, conspicuously wealthy parents Aubrey and Paul (Barbara Crampton and Rob Moran) welcome their litter of spoilt offspring to a rare evening get-together. Among them is Crispian (AJ Bowen), a meek teacher who’s constantly browbeaten by his cocky, over-achieving brother Drake (Joe Swanberg). Then there are two other siblings, younger brother Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and younger sister Aimee (Amy Seimetz), plus their respective other halves, the most prominent and sympathetic being Crispian’s younger girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson).
As this dysfunctional group gather in a wood-panelled room for dinner, an evening of uneasy conversation beckons, before being rudely interrupted by a silent assault from a group of killers in animal masks. There’s something deliciously wry about the notion of a violent siege being preferable to a middle-class family get-together, and writer Simon Barrett maintains a blackly comic tone throughout.
Among this family of fiercely self-interested people, who steadfastly refuse to pull together even in the face of death, the diminutive yet fearless Erin emerges as a character to root for. And as her survival instincts kick in and the improvised weapons begin to be constructed, You’re Next becomes an entertaining amalgam of Assault On Precinct 13, The Hills Have Eyes and Mario Bava’s proto-slasher classic A Bay Of Blood.
You’re Next cleverly subverts some genre expectations while – deliberately, it seems – falling victim to others, such as the characters’ tendency to either wander off on their own to check on something or stand around near windows. But as one jump scare proves, You’re Next sometimes uses these conventions as a means of misdirection, making the film as much a whodunnit as a straight horror flick. How many killers are there? Why are they wearing animal masks, and why are they picking on this particular family?
Your mileage may vary when it comes to the answers to those questions, and some regular watchers of horror and mystery movies may be able to at least partly predict the final outcome before the solution’s revealed. But despite these criticisms, You’re Next emerges as a well-paced and entertaining horror thriller.
It treads similar ground to last year’s The Purge, another film about rich people quaking as killers besieged their home, but does so with far more surety and purpose. The presence of genre favourite Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, From Beyond, too many other films to list) hints at the lashings of anarchic gore to come, while the presence of horror director Ti West, here playing an underground documentary filmmaker, aptly sums up the film’s rictus-grin sense of humour.
You’re Next is out on DVD and Blu-ray now.
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