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Review: You’re Next (2013)

You’re Next (2013)

Directed by: Adam Wingard

Premise: A wealthy family gathers for a weekend getaway at an isolated vacation home and comes under attack by a group of masked assailants.

What Works: One of the popular trends in the horror genre is neo-grindhouse cinema: deliberate throwbacks to the grindhouse pictures of the 1970s and the VHS horror flicks of the 1980s. Movies like The Devil’s Rejects, The House of the Devil, and V/H/S attempt to recreate the thrills and styles of movies from this era and You’re Next is yet another example. It is more successful than a lot of these pictures, in part because the filmmakers of You’re Next borrow the core elements of the movies that inspired them while presenting the story through contemporary filmmaking techniques. This is a vicious and outrageous home invasion movie, and You’re Next frequently works and has moments that are very tense. The picture includes a fair amount of gore but it is used in the right proportions. In a horror film, gore functions as the pay off to a tense series of events and the filmmakers of You’re Next make judicious use of the viscera. In fact, the movie is shot in such a way that the strike of violence is usually off screen but creates the impression that viewers have seen much more violence than they actually did. You’re Next is also reasonably smart. The characters behave in a credible way and the heroine of the movie, played by Sharni Vinson, is a resourceful young woman who fights back against her attackers. But perhaps the most surprising element of You’re Next is not its violence but its humor. The tone of the film is askew and it is frequently funny in a dark and offbeat way. This home invasion horror film actually inspires more laughs than a lot of the comedies released this year which is both to the credit of You’re Next and to the shame of the comedy genre. 

What Doesn’t: Since You’re Next is designed to recall the movies of the 1970s and 80s, mainstream audiences aren’t likely to grasp the nostalgic elements of the film. Some of the editing, and especially the use of electronic music, are designed to imitate the style of thirty year old movies. These qualities are less likely to inspire nostalgia and will more probably cause confusion and even derisive laughter by the audience. Some of the technical qualities of the film are also spotty, especially the sound which is often hollow. The acting of You’re Next is also uneven. Some of the performances are quite good but the tenor of the movie is deliberately off-key and as the level of camp fluctuates the actors struggle to find the right pitch. In a similar way, the filmmakers also struggle with the tone of the violence of the movie. The violence of You’re Next is generally presented as realistic but every once in a while characters who have been wounded are able to bound up a flight of stairs or engage in a fistfight and the discontinuity is jarring. You’re Next generally succeeds in what it is trying to do, which is to tell a gripping tale of survival amid a home invasion, but the film suffers from a nagging sense of emptiness, especially in the ending. The movies that You’re Next imitates, like The Last House on the Left and Straw Dogs, were savage but they were also about broader social and human issues. There is the nub of a broader theme here regarding wealth, greed, and family but the filmmakers don’t spend enough time on the front end of the movie establishing the family members and their relationships. As a result the movie is a group of vaguely defined people under assault from another group of unspecified assailants.

Bottom Line: You’re Next has some great stuff in it and for horror fans the movie is a must-see. General audiences will probably be flummoxed by it but You’re Next seems destined to develop a cult following and it is the kind of genre piece that horror fans will rave about.

Episode: #454 (September 1, 2013)