PLOT: An anniversary celebration goes horribly awry for a wealthy family when three masked attackers show up and begin indiscriminately killing off the clan one-by-one.
REVIEW: What a deliciously evil little devil YOU'RE NEXT is, a home invasion thriller that actually makes the sight of a family being slaughtered wholesale quite amusing. Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett have crafted a clever, quick, nasty and funny take on a genre that has certainly been seeing some wear and tear these past few years. They don't reinvent the wheel, they just slap a nifty coat of blood on it, giggling while doing so.
The film's best attribute is its ability to shift tone in the blink of an eye; showing us ghastly, legitimately disturbing sights one minute then breaking out a sight gag the next. You never quite know where YOU'RE NEXT is going to go, which is why it's so much fun.
The focus of the tale is the Davison family, a dysfunctional (and rich) unit headed by father Paul (Rob Moran) and mother Aubrey (Barbara Crampton). The duo is celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary at their posh suburban estate, so all the kids and their significant others will descend upon the house and be together for the first time in a long time.
Struggling writer Crispian (AJ Bowen) brings his pleasant Aussie girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson), who desperately wants to please his folks. Older brother Drake (Joe Swanberg) is a condescending jerk, while younger brother Felix (Nicolas Tucci) is an introvert who brings his goth chick girlfriend Zee (Wendy Glenn). Then there's younger sister Aimee (Amy Seimetz) and her "director" boyfriend Tariq (Ti West). An uncomfortable group whose night seems destined for awkward silences and bitter arguments.
But their night does not go as planned, as barely five minutes into their celebratory dinner one of the group is killed via an arrow in the head (nice touch!). Immediately the night descends into chaos, as the family learns a trio of mysterious men have trapped them inside and are intent on murdering the whole lot of them. Who they are and why they're doing this will eventually be explained (no "because you were home" explanations here), but that seems secondary to the fact that they're smart, fast and clearly evil, so it will take this squabbling clan all of their resources to stop them.
Once the madness begins, it doesn't stop until the movie is over. It's not exactly taking place in real-time, but the film does play out like we're watching the events play out sequentially, giving it a feeling of chaotic immediacy. Wingard and Barrett also establish early on that anyone can go at any time, so you don't have the feeling of safety that accompanies most horror efforts of this sort. And when they dispatch members of this more-or-less sympathetic family, they do it bloodily and brutally. Machetes are planted into skulls, throats are slit, bodies are punctured by tools. It's a real mess, and the house looks like an abattoir when it's all said and done.
But the violence is complimented by a sly sense of humor that peeks through the gore intermittently. In fact, the film gets funnier as it goes one, and the last 30 minutes or so - when our attackers find themselves becoming overwhelmed by the resourceful Erin - are filled with darkly amusing moments. It's not accurate to call the film tongue-in-cheek, because it's doesn't take its self-awareness to SCREAM-esque levels, but there's definitely a playfulness about YOU'RE NEXT that raises it above the grim home invasion films we're so used to.
The cast is pitch perfect throughout, with Vinson being the revelation. Erin is the most lovable final girl to come through the genre in a very long time, and the audience is prompted to cheer on her every triumph. That's thanks to Vinson's plucky adorability mixed with a genuine sense that she knows what she's doing; you never once doubt her resilience.
This is a true "audience" movie, something best seen with a large crowd of eager horror aficionados thirsty for something fresh, and yet charmingly familiar. Go see YOU'RE NEXT as soon as it comes out.