Home invasions + masks = classic slasher movie. It’s a well-known, perhaps overdone trope, but the Adam Wingard-directed, Simon Barrett-penned horror film You’re Next manages to switch the story up a bit for once.
Erin (played to excellence by Sharni Vinson) is accompanying her boyfriend Crispian Davison (A. J. Bowen) to a family reunion at his parents’ remote vacation house. The get-together is also attended by Crispian’s bubbly sister Aimee (Amy Seimetz), his snooty brother Drake (Joe Swanberg) with whom Crispian has a healthy dose of sibling rivalry, and youngest brother Felix (Nicholas Tucci), the black sheep of the family – along with the siblings’ significant others. The Davisons barely get halfway through their first screaming match of a family dinner before they begin to fall victim to a group of senseless killers wearing creepy-cool animal masks.
You’re Next brings a fresh take on the typical home invasion thriller by – eventually – inverting the roles; the hunter becomes the hunted, and all that. Because the film was advertised as such (summaries read “an unlikely guest of the family proves to be the most talented killer of all” and once you start the film it’s pretty freaking obvious the “unlikely guest” is sweet, unassuming Erin) this isn’t much of a spoiler. Neither is it a patient reveal. We spend the first half hour of the film enduring the awkward family reunion waiting for Erin to switch from doe-eyed girl next door to steely, ruthless survivor. From then on it’s the all out glorious mayhem that we all signed up to see.
It’s not that that first section of the film isn’t good or thrilling, because it is. Those 30 minutes are obviously vital in setting up the family dynamics and ramping up the necessary amount of tension before the descent into chaos. We even get a quick taste of blood in the form of the Davisons’ hapless neighbors’ demises, right at the very beginning. It’s just that the “twist” would have served better as an actual twist – imagine what a surprise it would’ve been the first time we see Erin fight back with such cold efficiency, rather than sitting back and waiting for it to happen.
Also, the – SPOILER ALERT – explanation for Erin’s badassery is a little… lacking to say the least, but thinking about it now I might actually prefer that to some convoluted “I lived through this once before” backstory. “I grew up on an Australian survivalist compound” might come off as out of left field – and doesn’t quite explain how Erin is so calm and collected whilst bashing peoples’ brains in (is there something about survivalist camps I don’t know? I thought they were all about hoarding supplies and learning basic defense/survival skills, not How To Casually Kill People In Fantastical Ways 101) – but its simplicity works in the film’s favor. How does Erin know these things? She learned it all when when she was young. Mystery solved in 30 seconds of exposition. Now we can move on to the fun stuff, like watching everyone onscreen die horrible deaths. END SPOILER.
The movie does manage to work in a couple other surprises by the end that I, at least, did not see coming, so for those who like their horror with twists and turns, You’re Next has a trick or two left in its sleeves. Or maybe I’m just really really bad at predicting these things, who knows.
As to be expected of a home invasion horror film, there is a sufficient amount of gore to satisfy the blood fiends in the crowd (perhaps too much gore? Ha, what am I saying, there’s no such thing for you people), along with a few fun Home Alone-esque trap montages. Though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a horror/comedy like others have, You’re Next also has its fair share of darkly humorous moments. I may or may not have cackled out loud at the over-the-top violence of a few of the more deserved kills. (I certainly will never look at a blender the same way again.) So really, there’s something for everyone in this one!
So long as you’re okay with your TV screen being coated in blood and viscera by the end, that is. And really, if you’re into that sort of thing, you’ll probably walk away from this feeling invigorated by Erin’s extreme form of self-defense, like I was. And isn’t that what we all want, is to have fun at the movies?