Review: You're Next / Cert: 18 / Director: Adam Wingard / Screenplay: Simon Barrett / Starring: Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, A.J. Bowen / Release Date: January 13th
There's a palpable feeling of freshness about this ultraviolent slasher/home invasion flick from rising stars Wingard and Barrett. You're Next certainly isn't going to change anyone's life – or the horror genre, for that matter – but it's as solid as they come, packing a fair old wallop. Hard to believe that it sat on the shelf for two years, being made before either V/H/S or The ABCs of Death.
After a “so far, so Friday the 13th” opening sequence, where a couple are dispatched by a masked assailant directly after making the beast with two backs, we bear witness to a reunion of the Davison family, celebrating the occasion of bourgeois mum and dad's wedding anniversary at the huge, isolated mansion they call a holiday home. As the immediately obvious built-up tensions between them come to a head over dinner, normality is instantly and irrevocably shattered when a crossbow bolt comes crashing through a window pane into one of their number's forehead. What follows is a relentless fight for survival, as the family and their various partners try to put aside their differences against a common foe. Or foes, as it soon becomes (very) painfully apparent.
Granted, this might not read like the most startlingly original of scenarios, but where You're Next wins out is in the execution. The performances are uniformly excellent, coming from proper actors rather than the usual assortment of assembly line 'teenagers', their overlapping, mostly credible dialogue drawing one in so much in the early stages that it's almost a disappointment when the action kicks in. Joe Swanberg, a leading light of the 'mumblecore' movement, is a particular stand out as the pricelessly douchey Drake, at one point arguing with his sister's underground filmmaker boyfriend (Wingard and Barrett's future V/H/S collab, Ti West) that the adverts are the best thing on TV. Long-time genre fans are appeased by the presence of Barbara (Re-Animator) Crampton as the family's nervous wreck of a matriarch.
What starts out as a terrifying scenario gradually nudges the viewer into fits of nervous laughter, although without degenerating into outright farce. As with all the great splatter-fests of yore, the viewer is bashed around the head just enough to become slightly desensitised to the lashings of violence on display, but not so much that it becomes tedious or completely inane. And without wanting to spoil it too much, it's also extremely refreshing that young Erin (Vinson) emerges as twice as much of a bad-ass as any of the killers could ever hope to be. No 'women as victims' fest is this.
Although consisting of a home invasion scenario, to equate You're Next with the likes of Last House on the Left or House at the Edge of the Park (as some commentators have) is pure idiocy. There are no protracted, painful to watch scenes of torture, rape, or humiliation, and the carnage on display can certainly be described as being of the 'equal opportunities' variety, if nothing else.
The film isn't perfect. It still suffers from the sort of narrative bugbears that blight many a film in the genre, such as people wandering off on their own, turning off lights and even going off to take a little nap. Although much of the dialogue is unusually credible, it's hard to forgive a scene wherein one character successfully lies to two others that another 'just needed a lie down', when the last person to do that ended up with a machete buried in their head. But, when all's said and done, when everything else is handled with such panache it's not difficult to forgive such transgressions.
On the strength of this and their other work, the future's looking pretty damned rosy for these incredibly talented filmmakers.
Extras: Making of You're Next featurette / Audio commentary with Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett / Audio commentary with Wingard, Barrett, Sharni Vinson and Barbara Crampton