Director: Adam Wingard
Cast: Sharni Vinson, Joe Swanberg, Wendy Glenn
The horror genre has of late been awash with studio pieces that have had positive word-of-mouth, but have ultimately failed in one way or the other to reignite that bloodlust that so often drew me to the genre in the first place. The home-invasion sub-genre has been on the lower rung of the ladder for quite some time; with last year’s appalling The Aggression Scale and this year’s equally abysmal The Purge being the only recent offerings. What a relief, then, that You’re Next is not only a truly enjoyable and brutal home-invasion horror, but a great entry to the ever-floundering horror genre.
After a ferocious opening to rival Scream’s iconic cat-and-mouse phone call to get you in the mood for the carnage ahead, You’re Next introduces the Davison family; a disparate group of people linked only by blood – as well as their plus ones – all in attendance for the parents’ anniversary celebration. In all, a denary of potential victims. Family dysfunctions run rife from the off, with the siblings exchanging harsh and snippy words as sharp as the blades that follow. After a particularly jocular scene at the family dinner table, the level of intensity is cranked up and the viscera beings.
Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett have crafted a brilliant script; the quick-witted dialogue gives way to chucklesome quips and clever satire, with the perfect balance of hilarity and subtlety preventing it from straying too far into a parody of the genre. What makes it such a joy to watch is its surprisingly even-handed approach to the violence and humour: amid the onslaught of the animal-masked psychopaths and the flowing gallons of blood, the siblings bickering scarcely desists.
The ten-strong cast are all authentic; AJ Bowen’s Crispian and Joe Swanberg’s antagonistic brother Drake heralding the best laughs, but it’s strength lies in Sharni Vinson’s unforgettable Erin. To fight back against the marauders, Erin becomes something of a Kevin McAllister, setting a series of innovative traps that subvert the presumptions of the audience with their ingenuity. It’s these moments that regularly surprise and further the cathartic hedonism of the magnificent pay-offs.
The strategic camerawork begs a special mention; with some commonplace techniques being pulled off with confidence, for example, a scene in which a camera-flash illuminates a darkened room. Methods such as this have been used many times before, and yet with Wingard’s mix of handycam, tripod and some brief occasions of slow-motion, the chaos seldom gets lost; especially when there are plenty instances to check in with each remaining character, so the audience knows exactly where we – and the victims – stand.
Perhaps it’s deepest flaw is to try and fit in one twist too many, with a hefty scene of exposition in the finale that elicits more sighs than the breathlessness of the attacks; it begins to unravel with a haphazard allegory of the economic crises: a theme that was predominantly surface level up until those plainly conversational minutes.
The directing/writing duo – who previously collaborated on the dreadful A Horrible Way To Die – clearly have much love and comprehension for the genre as it never veers into self-indulgence, nor does it attempt to do too much with such a simple concept. In eschewing the current trend of brazen nastiness found in abundance in modern horror, it also comes out on top. It’s uneven, and intermittently muddled, but You’re Next has successfully climbed up that ladder, and is contentedly maintaining position; its shoulders cheerily holding the weight of the giants it so elegantly emulates.