A family gets together for the weekend and a group of masked murderers invade their home. Have you seen that movie before? Not quite like this.
“You’re Next” takes the basic home invasion horror film template and fills it with some dark humor and a couple of surprises. The film, directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett, isn’t quite a “horror-comedy” like “Splinter” (2006) or “Shaun of the Dead” (2004). The funny elements are fully mixed in with the gore and horror trappings, resulting in a mostly serious horror film that happens to have a decent sense of humor.
The plot begins when Crispian (A.J. Bowen) and his new girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson) come to celebrate Crispians’ parents’ 35th wedding anniversary with the rest of his family in a large mansion in the mountains (naturally, for this type of film). Some slight character-building family tension is alluded when Crispians’ brother, Drake, played with frat boy rudeness by horror director, Joe Swanberg, constantly demeans Crispian and makes fat jokes like they’re both still teenagers. His other brother, Felix, portrayed by Nicholas Tucci, seems completely disinterested in being there. Then the arrows start flying and various family members and significant others are being dispatched.The only one who doesn’t allow everyone to devolve into a panicking mess is Vinsons’ Erin, who is strangely calm and organized when the attacks start coming.
The murders (the main attraction of most horror movies, if we’re going to be honest) are done brutally and often swiftly, with some of the kills (like a slow motion run into a concealed wire or one characters’ run-in with a blender) presented in such a ghastly and ridiculous fashion that one can’t help but let a laugh in between the gasps. In a couple scenes, instead of the “killer-silently-appears-behind-someone-in-a-dark room” bit that is commonplace for any slasher movie, another character will silently go up to and accidentally scare another character. In the obligatory sex scene between two characters that exist purely to die shortly after having sex, one characters’ facial expression clearly shows that they regret their last life choice. Common horror tropes aren’t mocked or played overtly for laughs but are tweaked just enough to let some humor shine through.
Wingard and Barrett clearly have their common horror movie tropes done enough to give them a slight tweak, including a couple surprising twists towards the end of the film, though one is a bit more obvious than the other.
One of the most notable elements here is our primary protagonist, Erin. She clearly possesses survival abilities and is legitimately able to keep a cool head and lead others during the home invasion. Erin is not your stereotypical horror movie virginal girl who is terrified for the entire film but just happens to get the upper hand on the killer at the last second, a la Jaimie Lee Curtis in the original “Halloween”. Erin is also not presented as a stereotypical Strong Female Character who is angry, driven and there only as a counterpart to the stereotypical macho male character trope. She is simply a person who is plopped into a bad situation and just happens to have an idea of how to handle it, and Vinson plays her with enough physicality to show that Erin has skills. It is played in a such a matter-of-fact way that doesn’t make a big deal about the lead woman being a badass that one might not realize right away how different this is for horror movies. In a film that clearly has its horror cliches served cold, she is definitely something different.
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