With horror being the way it is, originality with plot comes in rare doses. At times it seems the genre has become only about the gore or jump-scares, as opposed to trying to genuinely freak the audience out. When home invasion horror films became noticeable, I was hooked. The original Straw Dogs is fantastic, I really like Funny Games, and I think Panic Room is a fine thriller. But it wasn’t until the French film Them that we started getting what we now know as home invasion horror. It lead to the other French film Inside and then America received The Strangers which I know scared me when I first saw it. However, we never seemed to go in a different direction after what I would call an innovation in the repetitive genre. I mean sure, The Purge had some good moments, but it never took the idea and weaved a new basket.
While watching You’re Next, I had the same feeling I did when I watched Cabin in the Woods for the first time. That’s not to say it’s as elaborate or original, but the way it handles the material is almost a satire. It takes a plot that we have seen multiple times and reinvents it in new ways that make it one of the best crowd-pleasing horror films of the year. That’s because you have the V/H/S dynamic duo behind this film with Adam Wingard directing and Simon Barrett penning the script. Just from their segments of both V/H/S movies, it’s obvious that they know what is required for good horror and it shines through when you watch You’re Next. Not to mention this has been shelved for two years.
The film follows ten well-balanced characters as they come together for their parent’s anniversary held in a fairly large home in the middle of nowhere. To go through all the characters would take the fun out of your experience watching it, but the four siblings are the ones to be mentioned. You have the douchebag older brother (Joe Swanberg), the nice guy (AJ Bowen), the innocent sister (Amy Seimetz), and the troubled youngest (Nicholas Tucci). The moment all these characters sit down at the dinner table and begin to argue, the film felt real. I have been there, had these arguments and, as the scene progresses, you can’t help but be involved. It not only creates tension between this family from the get-go, but also helps humanize and develop these characters. Which is the best moment to begin the massacre.
Arrows begin flying in from the darkness outside and as the family attempts to escape the room, we get a sense of who these people really are in the face of danger. It all becomes about them surviving and who is the bravest of the entire group. We start seeing them being picked off by nameless, masked men and, in the midst of all the terror, our characters continue arguing. Someone is shot in the back by an arrow and cannot help but badger the family as they argue with the ideas of what they’re going to do. It’s a family-drama that never loses an ounce of that element throughout the entire film, which is what makes it so special. It’s humorous to the audience and to me, because I know I would have had the exact same reactions.
Aside from the dark humor, what else helps to reinvent You’re Next is the halfway mark of the film. Without Spoiling anything, I’m just going to say that the game changes and it becomes more of an action film than anything; much like The Purge, except the execution this time around is masterful in comparison. The first half deals many good scares that will make you jolt in your seat alongside the tension that has you terrified a minute before you even experience the scare. Gore seems to be a recurring tool in horror these days and while You’re Next has a lot of good, practical, grotesque moments, it doesn’t hold on to them entirely. It is a film that holds every element of horror in its hands and utilizes them to create an almost perfect satire.
It is almost impossible to look at a horror film and not expect some sort of predictability. When it comes to this film, there is a single plot point that you will see coming a mile away but, thinking back on it, I’m not entirely sure Wingard and Barrett were trying to be clever. When the revelation comes, it feels like the film is a puzzle that you are putting together and as you finish the corners, you put them aside to complete the rest of it. Even if you notice it or realize what is happening, it didn’t take away from the film nearly enough to have it be too much of a criticism. Besides, you get so caught up in the rest of the film’s brilliance that it really just becomes a nitpick in retrospect.
As it was with The Cabin in the Woods, the less you know about You’re Next is better for experience value. Going in fresh is always best, but when it comes to horror that reinvents the genre, you want to go in as fresh as possible. This is a slick, well-made, humorous horror film that will have you leaving the theater with a smile and Dwight Twilley’s “Looking for the Magic” stuck in your head for days (you will understand). Alongside The Conjuring, this year the horror genre might be making its way back up in doubter’s hearts; You’re Next is and will be one of the greats. You won’t have a better time in the theater so far this year, this is one to be seen.
The Good: the scares, execution, humor, acting, pacing, practical effects.
The Bad: one plot point of predictability that will cause glaring reactions.
The Ugly: one scene in particular of slow-motion that ends horribly wrong. It’s not a flaw, but quite the scene.