US | 2011 | Directed by Adam Wingard
Logline: At a rare anniversary in the country an extended family are terrorised by a gang of masked intruders, revealing that one of the victims knows a thing or two about survival.
The home invasion sub-genre has been around for several decades, but its popularity amongst contemporary horror directors has risen ten-fold in the last ten years. There aren’t that many that are actually any good. First and foremost, it’s the performances that have to be top-notch for any kind of convincing element of terror to ring true, and frequently that’s where the ball is dropped. There’s also the element of suspense, and that too is a delicate and often mistreated factor.
The best of the home invasion flicks of the past decade are the brilliant Them (2006), a co-pro between Romania and France, the UK Cherry Tree Lane (2010), and the Spanish Kidnapped (2010). These three movies have superb suspense, acting, and are soaked in atmosphere, whether it be a palpable claustrophobia, a disturbing visceral edge, or a truly frightening sense of realism.
You’re Next opts for a blackly comic sense of humour thrown into the mix. Like his contemporaries, especially Ti West, who makes a cameo in You’re Next, director Adam Wingard fashions his home invasion flick with a firm 80s feel, both in visual style and in execution. Even the whole “You’re next” scrawled in blood on the window or wall is lifted straight from the 1980s’ slasher sub-genre. To be honest, I think it’s a lame title if ever there was. Perhaps if it had been misspelled as “Your Next” I would have appreciated a garish sense of the villain’s laziness/idiocy.
Wingard directs competently enough, and as editor he understands the effectiveness of a horror visual narrative, playing on numerous sight gags and horror tropes (like a killer under the bed), and those animal masks (a wolf, a goat) add a modicum of creepiness, but despite a couple of shocks, the movie is precious light on any genuine sense of terror.
As for the horror, there is a fair amount of blood spilled; a crossbow bolt to the head, a couple of throat slashings, an axe to the head, numerous stabbings, and even an OTT Peter Jackson moment with a blender to the head. But the blood is far from realistic (one of my pet dislikes), and from the moment I saw the pinky-red stuff I was disappointed. It’s not rocket science to get it right (I know, I worked on Braindead (1991) and those boys nailed it!)
Performances are adequate; with rising Aussie star Sharni Vinson (curiously not having to don a fake American accent) providing the movie with a decent dose of charisma and chutzpah as the black sheep girlfriend. Also of note is Re-Animator (1985) actor Barbara Crampton as the anxiety-ridden mother, and AJ Bowen and Joe Swanberg as the sibling rivalry.
There’s nothing new under the sun here, but the movie is entertaining on a superficial level. Nowhere near as effective as Ti West’s 80s-soaked The House of the Devil (2010), or the other over-rated house invasion flick many will compare this to, The Strangers (2008), but You’re Next will no doubt provide ample buzz for Ms. Vinson.
You’re Next screened as part of the 60th Sydney Film Festival.