Who’s the black sheep in your family?
Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett reunite to put on a twist on the home invasion subgenre in this The Strangers (2010) meets Funny Games (1997) unrelenting revenge flick. It’s been three years since we’ve seen a feature length film from these two, the duo clearly having too much fun dabbling with shorts and segments for horror anthologies V/H/S (2012), ABCs of Death (2012) and V/H/S2 (2013).
College teacher Crispian (AJ Bowen) takes his new girlfriend, and former student, Erin (Shami Vinson) to a family reunion to celebrate his parents’ 35th wedding anniversary. But what is supposed to be a monumental occasion for the Davisons and a chance for his distant, aloof siblings to reunite is brutally interrupted when a gang of unknown intruders raid their house… right in the middle of dinner.
You don’t need to look much further past the generic pre-credit sequence and splatter-screen title to see that Wingard is walking back down the path of his classic 80’s slasher roots. His earlier work Home Sick (2007) saw a sadistic killer perform well orchestrated slaughters with his suitcase of razorblades, and there’s no doubt the beloved subgenre’s conventions also provide the basis for much of his influence in this throwback. Much like the primary slashers and old school TV murder mysteries, You’re Next sets out to shy away from the bloody effects of the fatal impact, but saviours the aftermath in savagely displayed dead bodies and lingering camera frames. The killings are crisp, loud and raucous, and the Carpenter-influenced racing synth score is instantly stimulating.
Wingard and Barrett have become quite the comedic impressionists in the genre, most recently with their amusing ABCs of Death ‘Q is for Quack’ short, and this trait has a bold presence here. The dialogue is tongue in cheek, and the ‘
family’ affair is a perfect setting to create a house of bantering, bickering
misfits. There’s some nice laugh-out-loud moments and an amusing referential
‘in-joke’ during a conversation on the filmmaking industry over dinner with House Of The Devil (2006) director Ti
West, who plays one of the sister’s boyfriends and mutters just a few
indistinguishable words before suffering a fatal arrow in the eye. The petty
sibling competitiveness across the table bodes for much of the droll humour,
but borders fatuous when disaster strikes and it inappropriately continues to
weave between moments of shock and tragedy in distracting commentary. It
dismally downplays the horror and you start to question how much of the
creative partners’ more recent comedic works has crept into their seemingly reformed
Who got the fastest lap time at school umpteen years ago? Because if its you and you brag about it, you’re the one running out of the door to find help, despite the proven capability from the lurking cross-bower’s bang-on-target aim. But a booby-trapped premises, which should cause a destabilising trepidation amongst the victims, doesn’t prevent them running out of doors and pressing their noses against windows. Reality is ludicrously distorted through the trappings of clichés, and the over emphasis on the team of professional hitmen versus a female teen’s survival education. It slants towards drab
Hollywood hype with trashy one
liners. Clearly we weren’t the only ones who didn’t get enough bite out of Bait 3D (2012). After her fishy horror
debut, Vinson seems keen to make her stake as the new horror heroine, but her
character here is no more credible. Though we are rooting for the invaders to
meet their comeuppance, and cheer when it comes, her exaggerated image of the
intrepid badass is simply a crowd-pleaser for the fighting female front and a
vehicle for senseless violence.
But what fundamentally disappoints is its failure to surpass much more than what is executed in the primary fifteen minutes. The build up is short-lived and thereafter it falls flat, the slow-burn completely smoking out somewhere in the middle and only being relit during the final frames. The character development is haphazard and measly across the board and the motives of the unconvincing perpetrator are lazy and mindless. A grand mansion sets this apart from the usual country cottage scene, but the inherent eeriness, which should have invited a vengeance with atmosphere and playfulness, is instead, deplorably, not taken advantage of.
Nevertheless, as the plot falls dowdy, it is saved by accelerating brutality and more adventurous effects, locking us into a gore overdrive for the remainder. The pre-credit sequence may, on reflection, seem absurdly random to the plot, but it establishes a distinctive pulsating music score that becomes an effective reference to mark the killers’ activity throughout. Though, again, another seemingly random facet, The Fortress (1985)-like animal masks not only proved an effective marketing technique, but granted a mysterious personality and an enigmatic silence to the otherwise ‘normal’ murderers.
VERDICT: You’re Next may not have reinvented the home invasion subgenre, but the endurance of its powerful execution and the occasional mix up of ‘arty’ motion effects amongst the frenzied mayhem reminds us why these two are top of the game.