Review: You're Next
PLOT: A dysfunctional family, on a weekend retreat at their patriarch's secluded summer home, is attacked by a gang of masked murders, bent on killing each and every person in the household.
REVIEW: YOU'RE NEXT is a superbly crafted old-school horror thriller courtesy of director Adam Wingard. Formerly a micro-budget wunderkind, responsible for terrific cult movies like WHAT FUN WE WERE HAVING, and A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE, as well as segments in the horror anthology films V/H.S and it's recent sequel, YOU'RE NEXT is a big stab (pun intended) by Wingard at the mainstream, and a film that should catapult him to the front ranks of emerging horror auteurs.
Oddly enough, YOU'RE NEXT, despite unanimous acclaim from horror fans and mainstream critics alike, has sat on the shelf since premiering as part of TIFF's Midnight Madness way back in 2011. Having seen the film back then, I can assure those of you that have been eagerly awaiting it's release that not only has this been worth the wait, but it's also, from what I can tell, Wingard's orginal, uncompromised cut. It hasn't been watered down one bit.
The premise is simple enough, and nothing you haven't seen before. The recent horror flick, THE STRANGERS, told a similar story. What sets YOU'RE NEXT apart is Wingard's style, which is kinda arthouse/exploitation. It's fast-paced, gory, and often hilarious (the script by Wingard's frequent collaborator Simon Barrett is very witty), but the DV photography by Andrew Droz Palermo is gorgeous, and the sparse soundtrack is superb. The use of an obscure seventies rock hit, Looking for the Magic by the Dwight Tilley Band as a recurring gag/motif is especially noteworthy, and I wouldn't be surprised if this song's iTunes purchases go through the roof if this catches on. All this adds up to a surprisingly sophisticated thriller, and one that could certainly appeal to more than just the hardcore horror fanbase (although they'll certainly like it too).
Another interesting thing about YOU'RE NEXT is that other than the heroine, played by a kick-ass Sharni Vinson (an Aussie actress best known for STEP UP 3D), you're not really asked to identify too much with the victims. In fact, Wingard kinda goes out of his way to make sure you hate them, with it being mentioned early on that the rich family made it's fortune courtesy of their soft-spoken dad's (Rob Moran- who KINGPIN fans are sure to recognize) work with a weapons manufacturer (but it's OK, he was only in marketing, or so says one of his kids). It's an interesting contrast that this conservative patriarch, who helped make state-of-the-art weapons, is threatened by three men armed with nothing more sophisticated than a crossbow.
The rest of the brood is filled with people that are insufferable, such as AJ Bowen's academic (Bowen is a Wingard regular, and appeared a couple of years ago in a great, little-seen horror movie called THE SIGNAL), or his turtleneck-wearing, yuppie brother (played by Joe Swanberg- a director in his own right), and hipster friends (with HOUSE OF THE DEVIL director Ti West as a poseur director, and Amy Seimetz of UPSTREAM COLOR as an insufferable daddy's girl). Of the gang, Vinson is the only one that's down to earth, or seemingly really worth caring about. She's also mysteriously well-equipped and tangles well with the well-trained, ingenious killers.
I will say that YOU'RE NEXT is probably more of a survival thriller/actioner than full-blown horror. It almost felt like THE STRANGERS or HALLOWEEN by way of FIRST BLOOD, which is a cool combination. That said, plenty of people in the Fantasia audience I saw this with seemed to be jumping out of their seats throughout, and it's often ultra-gory, with some truly ingenious, blood-curdling kills, none of which I'll ruin here. Wingard also pays hommage to eighties horror by casting former scream-queen Barbara Crampton (who still looks great) as the family matriarch.
Even though it took two whole years for YOU'RE NEXT to finally see the light of day, there's a reason why of all the movies to play midnight madness over the last few years, this was the one that got the biggest studio distribution deal since INSIDIOUS. It may be low-budget, but it's ambitious, and truly a whole other breed from the usual B or C-grade horror movies we typically see at the end of August. Wingard's career is going to skyrocket sooner or later, and like THE CONJURING, proves that horror movies can be ambitious, sophisticated, and R-rated without being schlock. Highly recommended.
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