Release Date: August 23, 2013
Director: Adam Wingard
MPAA Rating: R
Film Pulse Score: 7/10
The horror genre has been so overdone in recent years that new sub genres were created. Minimalistic home invasions thrillers like The Strangers and the found footage craze thanks to the Paranormal Activity franchise have been able to inject the genre with a much needed transfusion. Of course, with each great success comes the need to milk it for all its worth and the new blood eventually becomes clotted. However, once in awhile something comes along that gives the genre a jolt. Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon successfully satirized the horror genre with their meta horror film The Cabin in the Woods. They took what is known and expected about the genre and gave it a particularly entertaining spin. It was neither scary nor suspenseful but was fun, entertaining and smart. Now comes Adam Wingard’s horror/thriller You’re Next.
An affluent family gathers at their isolated estate to celebrate the parents’ wedding anniversary. However the celebration becomes a night of terror when they are victimized by a group of masked killers who are hunting them and picking them off one by one. Not willing to play victim the family strikes back in order to save those they love even if it means it will cost them their own lives. The premise is standard fare but the film and its execution is not. While not meta like The Cabin in the Woods, it does successfully satirize the genre and despite not being all that scary or suspenseful it is a rather fun ride.
When seeing a horror film it’s pretty much a given that the audience is there for the scares and the carnage. If you give them some decent characters, and they only need to be developed just enough to make the audience shriek when they die, than they may be willing to go along for the ride. You’re Next is populated by relatable and likable characters. Who hasn’t been in a family or with a family that doesn’t have these archetypes? The rivalry between brothers, the loving parents, the put upon little brother, the brothers and their girlfriends, the little sister who never gets enough credit, etc.. Wingard spends just enough time with the family to allow the audience to connect with them so that once the terror begins you fear for them.
Like Cabin, the film is not particularly scary or suspenseful. While you may not see the twists coming, where they take the story has an air of familiarity but the execution of it is rather fun. The twisted humor, the over-the-top violence and some ass-kicking by one of the lead characters are just some of the elements that make up for the lack of thrills. There are even some moments that could illicit cheers if you are so inclined. Ultimately it becomes less a horror film and more of a satirical survival thriller. We’ve seen all these elements before in other films and Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett embrace that and ratchet them up a level or two. Think Home Alone cranked up to 11.
Wingard has assembled a solid ensemble cast. Rob Moran and Barbara Crampton are good as Mr. and Mrs. Davison. Joe Swanberg is solid as the big brother you love to hate. AJ Bowen is likable as the brother who just wants to one up his big brother. The particular stand out is Sharni Vinson as Crispian’s, AJ Bowen’s character, girlfriend. She proves to be a solid and effective leading lady who is not only sharp as a whip but can put up a fight.
You’re Next is an entertaining take on a fledgling genre that already seemed to be going stale. If you go in expecting a straight up horror movie you will likely be quite disappointed. Unlike typical genre fare this one is populated by decent characters, has an interesting plot, cringe-worthy but sometimes funny violence and a nice tongue-in-cheek vibe that doesn’t take itself too seriously. For genre fans it’s certainly worth a look and for the non-genre fans think of it as if Home Alone was remade as a horror movie. Intrigued yet?