Review: YOU’RE NEXT (2011)

Lock the doors. Barricade the windows. Grab a weapon. Cause you never know if YOU’RE NEXT! (Yeah. I went there. What of it?)

 

Directed by: Adam Wingard

Starring: Sharni Vinson, Joe Swanberg, and A.J. Bowen

MPAA Rating: R

 

YoureNext.608x938Independent horror films often will debut at film festivals in hopes of gaining positive buzz and possibly securing distribution deals. A horror film from the makers of A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE titled YOU’RE NEXT premiered at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival to much acclaim, and Lionsgate was quick to secure the rights to the film. Why it took them two years to release it for general audiences is anyone’s guess, but the film has finally arrived for our viewing entertainment. It’s s home invasion/slasher movie with a strong emphasis on loved ones and family. So, does the film live up to it’s reputation?

The family at the heart of YOU’RE NEXT is gathering together at their home out in the middle of nowhere to celebrate the thirty-fifth wedding anniversary of their parents. It’s been several years since they’ve all convened, and the strained relationships make it immediately apparent why this is the case. As a heated argument commences over their evening dinner, three men in animal masks attack with crossbows and machetes, and start killing the unsuspecting folk. As the family struggles to survive, the girlfriend of one of the sons begins arming herself and fighting back. Can she lead them all to safety before the maniacs take them out one-by-one?

YOU’RE NEXT has all the hallmarks of a standard home invasion/slasher flick. It has a large house out in the middle of the woods, unfortunate victims, killers in creepy masks, and no cell phone reception. The film also boasts a high body count with lots of blood and violence. However, it’s the film’s approach which makes it surprisingly unique and unexpected. The movie is often cleverly playing against the audience’s expectations as events unfold in a manner which is not traditional for these types of films. To reveal exactly what is different would ruin most of the fun, so don’t expect for this review to go in-depth in regards to it. Just know that you are not receiving the run-of-the-mill horror film you might be expecting from the trailers.

The script from Simon Barrett is very smart. The characters, both the victims and the killers, aren’t the most complicated we’ve seen, but they have far more nuance and depth than we traditionally see in films of this type. Also, the events of the film are plotted and planned exceptionally well. There’s a real sense of purpose behind each murder and behind each reaction. Assisting with this is Adam Wingard’s confident direction. He brings a nice sense of realism and immediacy to the horrifying, unthinkable actions portrayed on-screen. He rarely, if at all, resorts to cheap jump scares, instead allowing for the horror to come from the actions of the characters themselves instead of gimmicky camerawork.

The writing and directing is top-notch, yet much of the success of YOU’RE NEXT can also be attributed to the strong performances from the entire cast, especially Sharni Vinson in the lead as Erin. She manages to play both vulnerable and fearful, whilst convincingly switching to determined fighter and bad-ass hero. It’s been a very long time, possibly decades, since we’ve seen a horror heroine this worthy of celebration. Joe Swanberg, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, and A.J. Bowen also shine in their respective roles, adding layers to standard horror character archetypes.

The production itself is equally impressive. The set design within and outside the house helps aid in the isolation and danger that is ever-present. The lighting is also effective in that regard. There isn’t much gore, even with the copious amount of wounding going on, but there is A LOT of blood. Each effect is brought to life with wince-inducing realism which should satisfy those looking for visceral kicks. The music score also deserves special mention. It complements the action and never feels intrusive. Overall, this is a talented crew who have helped bring to life an exceptional film.

YOU’RE NEXT is a delightfully unexpected thrill ride. It manages to be perverse and nasty without resorting to unrelenting grimness or hopeless depravity. A solid script, an amazing cast, and fantastic production value work together to deliver a darkly funny and surprisingly twisted horror tale with a fresh attitude and plenty of moxie. YOU’RE NEXT should please any horror fan looking for a good time and a fun scare.

YOU’RE NEXT is now playing in theatres nationwide. It can be highly recommended by this critic.

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