Director: Adam Wingard
Cast: Sharni Vinson, AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Barbara Crampton, Ti West, Wendy Glenn, Nicholas Tucci, Kate Lyn Sheil, Amy Seimetz, Rob Moran
Release Date: August 24th 2013
You’re Next is the rare horror movie that often contorts to convention but does it in such an unconventional way that it deserves your applause. Horror movie addicts will immediately recognize some of the obvious choices the filmmakers have made here. From the predominantly enclosed location where most of the action occurs to the small cast that is knocked away one by one, decease the storytellers have accepted the genre and its limitations. But in a striking change of pace, price they’ve also enthused it with an air of energy and respectability that give the violent proceedings an added buoyancy.
The story begins with a married couple preparing to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary. Paul (Rob Moran) and Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) are the parents of four 20 or 30-something year old children who all arrive at the family’s party with their significant loved ones. Some are married. Others are dating.
But when all of the guests have arrived, there are ten people celebrating this anniversary as one seemingly-happy family akin to a darker and bickering version of the Brady Bunch (during their reunion specials).
The main couple’s dinner party begins with Aubrey being awfully emotional about having her family back together for the celebration. She’s so excited to see them all there, she notes.
But joy turns to horror when the attendees are attacked by psychopaths outside, who quickly begin shootings arrows from a crossbow at the partygoers. One by one, the family is attacked by these nutcases.
Instead of becoming the typical horror homage though, the story raises the stakes. One obvious way that that translates onto the big screen is the way that the siblings act and react with one another. Like at Thanksgiving, several of the siblings inevitably start arguing with each other over the meal, making others at the table uncomfortable. The superficial dispute they have even sounds like one that two siblings would have with one another while sitting around a table with their family watching.
Later on, when the violence begins, the members react like real victims who are mentally and physically trying to accept the situation. Unlike other bystanders in horror flicks, these people truly seem to comprehend what is happening before their very eyes. They are being targeted and eliminated one by one. It’s true that some of their decisions are trite and simplistic but these family members learn from their mistakes and eventually begin making better decisions. Something that characters in other horror flicks should start to do.
Director Adam Wingard also brings his own style to the proceedings offering up some invigorating ideas. One great one is a fight sequence towards the end of the film when the only light that viewers see is the flashing of a camera set to take pictures every few seconds. The technique has been used before but works extremely well here as we watch a killer–posing, like the others, in a mask that contains the facade of an animal– approach the camera not knowing if he himself will be attacked along the way.
Another one is the repetition of the song “Looking for the Magic,” which plays on repeat several times during the proceedings. The song is just one of the grand novelties that make this story cut away from some of its dreadful genre brethren and stand out as a horror flick that has an artistic sensibility about it.
As with other horror films, this one includes grotesque violence and mayhem. It’s clearly not a story that everyone will appreciate. But for once, fans of the genre will be pleased that You’re Next both appreciates the contours of the slasher flick and then elevates them in a scary and engaging story that won’t be forgotten five minutes after viewers have seen it.
Review by: John Hanlon