[Movie Review] 'You're Next' For Killer Thrills
While its title may suggest an unlimited body count and mind-numbing gore, the new thriller You’re Next is actually smarter than your typical splatter film, following the old rules created by masters of the genre like John Carpenter and George A. Romero, keeping blood to a (relatively speaking) minimum, building tension to a crisp breaking point, and letting the violence speak for itself in its sudden, sharp entry into the lives of a self-absorbed family gathering.
You’re Next tends to follow the classic slasher film set up, complete with an opening scene that confidently teases our masked killer(s) and what’s to come, a group of aforementioned victims-to-be in a somewhat remote house that no one actually lives in, and a triple threat of masked stalkers hunting seemingly innocent victims for no apparent reason.
While most slashers (especially those that feature masked killers) revel in the unknown and often never stated logic of random and unflinching violence, this film actually goes the other way midway into the action, when the first of three twists elevates this film above those standard expected tropes to a new height of believable reality.
It’s a home invasion horror story, and we are fully aware of certain surprises awaiting the unsuspecting family, but some of those in their party also have unexpected surprises for viewers, none more satisfying that Australian actress Sharni Vinson, who more than carries the film as the smartest and toughest character of them all.
Certain subtleties I’m sure will play even better on repeat viewings, but Vinson’s Erin – girlfriend of one of the adult sons in the family – is a hero worth cheering for in a movie populated otherwise by messed up people being terrorized by even more deranged people.
Vinson shines in a talented cast that also includes scream queen icon Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator) as the matriarch of the family. Crampton plays the mother role perfectly, the emotional soul of the group determined to let the family dramas of years gone by subside for at least one happy weekend, though we know all too well that it’s not going to go that way.
Even while we may not particularly like all of the members of this family, they are all quite believable in their interactions, making the most of what very short time there is to introduce any characterization before the action starts to take over.
Director Adam Wingard has no problem letting viewers in on the bad things about to happen, and it only serves to add to the tension, like when a certain closet door is left unchecked early on and strange noises are heard upstairs, and writer Simon Barrett is especially good at bringing surprising realism out of what could at first be seen as a far fetched situation.
Another thing that elevates You’re Next considerably above its peers in the genre is that it is funny, with a few strategically placed spikes of laugh-out-loud moments thanks to the great performances of the ensemble cast.
While the violence is brutal, it does not drown the film, as Wingard again follows the old rules of showing less of the gore in order to impact the audience even more.
As the second half of the film kicks into gear, it becomes like a demented hybrid of Home Alone and Scream, and I especially appreciated the very John Carpenter-inspired score that is barely there in the beginning but grows slowly more present as the story progresses into survivalist mode.
When the true face of evil is finally revealed, I can’t say I was surprised, though I was satisfied, as this film does not want to torture its audience the way others like Saw and Hostel so enthusiastically aim to do.
While it may be too much for general audiences to swallow, You’re Next will undoubtedly be a future cult classic among hardcore horror fans for its originality and undeniable energy, not to mention a formidable and likable hero who doesn’t waste time running and hiding, but just kicks ass.
Official Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Reviewed by: Matt Artz
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You’re Next (rated R) is now playing at R/C KDH Movies 10 in Kill Devil Hills.