Review: You're Next (Fantastic Fest)
PLOT: A family reunites for their parents 35th anniversary at a secluded home in the woods. As their own tensions and sibling rivalries begin to mount, they must unite against a new enemy - a group of masked assailants who are mounting a home invasion.
REVIEW: I was wondering how YOU'RE NEXT would differ from THE STRANGERS, another home-invasion thriller that featured attackers wearing creepy masks. As it turns out, YOU'RE NEXT not only successfully distances itself from THE STRANGERS, it easily sets itself up as one of the best horror films of the past few years.
The film's title takes its name from the warning the film's attackers smear in blood on the wall of the home and if it reminds you of late-70s/early-80s horror films, that's not an accident. The film is a giddy homage to number of old classics - think what Broken Lizard tried to do with CLUB DREAD but director Adam Wingard actually pulls it off here.
Where YOU'RE NEXT works where other films struggle is that they spend some time setting up the character work and the family dynamic at play. We follow English teacher Crispian and his former-student-turned-girlfriend Erin as they feel awkward alongside the more successful older brother and his snooty wife. There's the chirpy younger sister and her artsy-fartsy boyfriend. And then there's the rebellious younger brother and his bitchy goth girlfriend.
Whether your family is as dysfunctional as theirs, there is some solid character work at play and the actors do their part to turn what could've been easy cliches into real people we're invested in. It's no accident that the first connection with the attackers comes during an escalating argument over dinner.
But what I haven't yet mentioned is just how funny YOU'RE NEXT is. I expected a straight horror-thriller but I can easily see Lionsgate marketing this as a horror-comedy and that's probably more fitting. The characters in the film don't react like horror movie characters, they react like real people - real people who can't stop their bickering even when outside forces are threatening to kill them. Too many horror movies spend so much effort going through the typical motions, they forget why we like horror movies so much - because they're fun. YOU'RE NEXT never forgets that and turns something played seriously in a movie like STRAW DOGS or THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and gives it a fresh, fun spin (there's one delightful nod to the STRAW DOGS style boiling water attack).
I went into YOU'RE NEXT with visions of THE STRANGERS dancing in my head but left with a more lofty comparison for the film - the original SCREAM. It has that perfect mix of suspense, gore and laughs that could very well make YOU'RE NEXT a new crossover classic that appeals to gorehounds and regular audiences as well. There's a villain monologue at the end that's up there with some of the best in recent memory and a final kill that had the entire audience cheering with demented glee.
I'd be careful to hype up YOU'RE NEXT too much if it weren't as good as it was. If ATTACK THE BLOCK was the breakout hit of SXSW, YOU'RE NEXT does the same out of Fantastic Fest (and those films would make a killer - no pun intended - double feature one day) and those films are probably the most fun I've had in a movie theater this year.