With You’re Next, director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett are making quite a name for themselves as contenders in modern horror. If you check out 2010’s A Horrible Way to Die, then the VHS and its sequel which have appeared since then, you will see a curve of improvement that should garner some keen interest. The pair’s latest offering is their best to date; a home invasion thriller married with horror imagery, family drama, and a sharp black humour.
You’re Next’s premise is simple: a family celebration interrupted by brutal masked mercenaries, who are surprised to find one of their victims has a knack for violence and survival. After a seductive yet brutal prologue, the heat turns down to allow us entry to its characters proving Wingard and Barrett are wise to the pitfalls of the modern horror film: lack of character = lack of shits given when they get dispatched. And make no mistake they get brutally dispatched. Giving us at least half the film to understand the politics of the Davison family could seem a bit overboard in a film of this ilk, but it’s exactly why You’re Next stands out amidst last year’s slashers and terror trips. That, and a blender.
Sharni Vinson’s turn as Erin is one of the strongest points in the feature, remoulding the classic slasher girl into a merciless home-defence guru come brutal combatant. Vinson’s sharp delivery and no-bullshit attitude will have you cheering in an era still too reliant on the utter stupidity of not just its murder-fodder (steroid huffing jocks and fraternity bitches) but its lead roles too. Gushing about the cast doesn’t stop there, Joe Swanberg flaunts perfect comic timing as Crispian’s asshole brother, House of the Devil director Ti West pops up in a minor role, whilst Stuart Gordon regular Barbara Crampton makes a most welcome return to the screen as the Davison children’s mother.
You’re Next flaunts an appreciation for classic horror but doesn’t actively engage, its not taking up the postmodern element but it does feel like a retrospective of late-70’s slasher tropes. Rather than being a rip-off, Wingard and Barrett have recycled some images and tones that bolster their feature as an impressively constructed thriller with moments of horror that actually have the power to intimidate. On a bum note, as the tension winds and the blood splashes, the soundtrack switches to a weird hark-back synth sound, which dangerously compromises the intensity of the film at points. The almost playful scoring highlights why You’re Next works so well: because it doesn’t desperately try to emulate everything that’s gone before.
Genre hybridity does not equal “Game-Changer” however, as many reviews seem to think , and anyone going into the film expecting The Cabin in the Woods will be sorely disappointed. Instead of changing the face of the genre, You’re Next stands its ground as an enjoyable venture by surprising the audience with well executed plot, scares, practical effects, fleshed out characters, and a keen sense of humour. You probably won’t laugh out loud, but there are plenty of moments to remind the audience that Barrett and Wingard are in complete control of their project.
You’re Next is a concise, rip-roaring sort of ride the likes of which only come around every once in a blue moon. Expertly put together, at points chilling, at points hilarious, always entertaining, here is horror cinema at its most enjoyable from bloody beginning to outrageous ending without forsaking any intensity what so ever.
Dir: Adam Wingard
Stars: Sharni Vinson, Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen, Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden