For the full experience listen to the tune below while you read, that is if you can stop yourself from getting up and dancing!
You’re Next, and I can’t believe I’m saying this so close to my review of The Conjuring last week, is one of the most entertaining horror films I have seen in a long time. I had started to resign myself to the idea that I was only likely to see one genuinely well made scary movie every couple of years (it’s been a long decade) and then a film like this comes along and blows me away. And its a slasher, when was the last time you saw a genuinely good slasher film? I’ll let you think about that one for a while.
You’re Next starts with some nudity and a couple of gruesome killings perpetrated by a man with a white animal mask in a lonely house in the middle of nowhere. We are then gradually introduced to a large grown-up family consisting of mother, father, offspring and significant others, who are all converging on the family’s isolated country house for a meal to celebrate their parents wedding anniversary. After meeting girlfriends/boyfriends for the first time and pleasantries are out of the way the family sits down to dinner where tensions and rivalries erupt into a full blown argument which is only interrupted when arrows start flying through the window. Under siege, family members must put differences aside to try and escape this high stress situation alive, something which is easier for some than for others.
You’re Next is directed by American film-maker Adam Wingard, but (in my opinion) is heavily influenced by Scandinavian cinema and film-makers such as Thomas Vinterberg, and Niels Arden Oplev (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, 2009) I mentioned in my commentary on the trailer that Lions Gate released for the film that You’re Next looks, based on aesthetics and subject matter, as though it could be an American re-make of Festen (1998) (until the blood starts flowing) Watching the full film I found that this statement stands up. You’re Next is centred around a large family with a dysfunctional dynamic, in a large house filled with secrets which seems to be one of the preoccupations of Danish and Swedish cinema. You’re Next also owes a debt to Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (1997) which is fairly self evident, and a large number of recent similarly styled films own the same debt. This is not to say that You’re Next is unoriginal, it’s influences serve to elevate it’s resonance above that of other ‘wanna be’ home invasion movies. (The Purge being the most recent disappointing example)
So let’s paint a family portrait. Mum and dad (Barbera Crampton from Re-Animator fame and Rob Moran) are typical upper crust American white folks, Mr Davison works for a large defence contractor, and is on the brink of retirement, and Mrs Davison is a high strung neurotic, fearful of confrontation and desperately hoping for unity between her offspring. Then we have Crispian (AJ Bowen from House of the Devil 2009) the underwhelmed middle son who is introducing new girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson) to the family for the first time. Crispian feels the family’s expectations weighing heavily on his shoulders and warns Erin that the family reunion may not be the harmonious event that she might be expecting. Next to arrive are Drake (Joe Swanberg, actor/director from V/H/S)and Kelly (Margaret Laney), Drake seems to be the older son (although we never know for sure) and takes great pleasure in ingratiation himself with him parents at any opportunity, especially if it is at Crispian’s expense. Then there is daughter Aimee (Amy Seimetz) who strives to stand out in a family of brothers, and her boyfriend Tariq (Ti West director of House of the Devil and The Innkeepers, 2011 in an inspired cameo that I thought was brilliant, although Murry thought it was a bit self conscious) who receives dinner table flack for stating that he is a film-maker, and then admitting to having only screened one film at an underground documentary festival. (“Do they show the films underground” Drake asks provocatively) And finally there is youngest son Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and girlfriend Zee (Wendy Glenn) who want people to think that they are above the pretensions of a class based society but when it comes down to it are entirely self obsessed.
So there you have it; when did you last see a horror with quite so much detailed character development? It’s a rarity. The first half of You’e Next is very much an ensemble picture, then, as events become more intense, Erin becomes our primary focus towards the end of the film. Overall the film is carried by the great performances brought by every member of the cast.
You’re Next is as much a slasher as a home invasion movie, because the audience is encouraged to think about why this is all happening and who could be behind it. Writer Simon Barrett gives us plenty of possible clues to go on; the father works for a defence contractor, the assailants wear animal masks and hunt the family, the neighbours are also targeted by the gang. We are also given a number of red herrings and a healthy dose of misdirection. This is a film with a twist (I guessed two thirds of it before the reveal) but the motive is less than obvious so the reveal/s is/are successful in terms of keeping the majority or people guessing, and yet still standing up to scrutiny. I have already seen You’re Next twice (once with Murry, and the second time with Murry, Moleman, Bennett and Cordelia) and I am please to say that the film entirely stands up to a second viewing. Every jigsaw piece fits perfectly in place in a fashion that even The Sixth Sense would be proud of, but with no need for a cheesy flashback.
If I have a couple of small gripes about the film (and I mean small, because this is a film well worth viewing) they would only really be with the start and the end. Although there are no overt spoilers written here, if you want to protect your self from the smallest chance of guessing at the ending you may want to skip down to the last paragraph dear reader! My first issue would be that during the opening a female character walks around topless in a room with a glass wall. While the nudity is done reasonably tastefully, and while many women may well choose to walk around topless in their own homes, it seems unlikely that they would do so if they had a glass wall in their house.
Secondly, and this is slightly more major, the ending of the film I found a little disappointing. The build up to the ending was immense, Erin is an impressively strong female character who knows what it takes to survive and knows how to lead people. I had a few ideas on where I wanted the plot to go, sadly we didn’t quite get there. I got the feeling that the film-makers lost their nerve at the last moment. While this did not effect the film/plot overall, nor the enjoyment of the audience who all left the screen in a state of excitement, my feeling was that the ending served to undermine Erin’s strength of character at the last moment. Up until then You’re Next had given us a breathtakingly impressive modern take on the final girl not seen since the Sidney Prescott years.
Also Hitchcock’s famous ticking time bomb theory is put to good use here with an axe rigged to a door, people were genuinely panicking about this in the cinema, but when the axe falls it is on (in my view) the wrong person so it ends up feeling kind of gimmicky. Although I will say that the panic felt by the audience is in no doubt a testament to the touching ‘romance’ depicted between Erin and Crispian which we all desperately clung on too in between blood spatters.
But don’t let any of that phase you, You’re Next is about a thousand times better than anything else on offer recently and everything that goes on in between is pure heaven, or pure hell depending on how you want to look at it. The film as a piece feels vital and full of camaraderie and dynamism. This is probably down to the unusual number film-makers taking on acting roles, and previous collaborators banding together to take things up a level. After forcing everyone I know to watch it all I have heard are good things and I have every intention of watching it again.