The best thing I can say about the violent indie horror/thriller You’re Next is that it had a kick-ass heroine and some creepy animal masks. Sweeping the Fantastic Fest Awards last month, You’re Next wowed the crowds but left me wondering what all the excitement was about (and seriously questioning the crowd‘s taste in horror movies).
Director Adam Wingard and scribe Simon Barrett teamed up again for a rather clichéd slasher/home invasion pic in You’re Next. While their gritty yet thoughtful thriller A horrible Way To Die did impress me at last year’s Fantastic Fest, this new slasher film lacks the subtle intelligence that made their last movie together so effective. Instead You’re Next relies on formulaic scenarios, where even the twist at the end is predictable.
The plot is laughably simple (typical for slasher pics, and not necessarily a detractor): a wealthy family gathers for a reunion at their manorial vacation home, only to face a handful of masked fiends intent on slaughtering them all. Lucky for the family in question, number-two son’s new girlfriend was raised on a survivalist compound and is prepared to give the sadistic killers a run for their money.
Low-budget horror pic regular A.J. Bowen plays Crispian with laudable humor. His character is a defensive younger brother type, and his interactions with the family come across as naturally comedic. His younger girlfriend is played with great girl-power badass-ness by Sharni Vinson (Step Up 3D), who steals the show and obviously draws on her background in dancing to nail some above-average fight scenes and physicality.
There is also a good deal of edge-of-your seat tension, and some awesome death traps and memorable kills. This is all what one would expect from a decent slasher film. What left me wishing there was more to it was the pedantic directing, and the strange humor that made it difficult to take anything happening in the movie seriously. The predictability didn’t help, either.
While the animal masks on the killers was a brilliant costume choice, and upped the creepiness and tension of the first two acts, there simply isn’t anything about You’re Next that is memorable. Vinson’s character is fun to watch as the unexpectedly indestructible graduate student, but overall I felt like You’re Next was just a few sight gags away from straying into campy horror territory.
The family dynamic was amusing, and provided plenty of laughs. When the dying started it became a game of “who’s biting it next?”, which kept the mood of this horror light. But, as I said, I thought this comedic lightness detracted from the more thrilling elements. The old-school horror moments were crafted well, but the traditional camera work and over-used killer-is-inside-the-house scenarios are nothing we haven’t seen a dozen times before.
Lionsgate seems to see commercial merit in You’re Next, as they picked up the distribution rights to it after it premiered at TIFF. This led to some serious buzz coming into Fantastic Fest, and with only one screening You’re Next was the film to see. I did have high expectations going in, but I left feeling underwhelmed due not so much to a lack of thrills and gore, but a pervasive mediocrity and a this-has-been-done-to-death feel.
I think genre film fans will get a kick out of You’re Next, but I’m not sure it will be the sleeper hit some are predicting when it comes out in theaters sometime next year. There’s just not a lot to it, when all is said and done, and the cliched storyline and predictable twist will leave many underwhelmed.