You’re Next is an energetic, fun, somewhat smarter than average slasher horror film with delightfully dark humor in the vein of the Evil Dead films. It’s one of those movies that you’ll want to see in a theater with a great audience.
In You’re Next, the Davison family is attacked by home invaders during a family reunion celebrating the 35th anniversary of the clan’s matriarch and patriarch. We’re first introduced to one of the sons, Crispian (AJ Bowen) and his new girlfriend, Erin (Sharni Vinson) on their way to his family’s enormous manor. During the exposition, we learn that Crispian comes from wealth and that he’s not looking forward to what he expects will be a tense family gathering. Erin takes it all in stride, even when he subtly warns her that things might get weird.
As the rest of the family arrives, we meet Crispian’s douchey, older brother, Drake, his pampered younger sister, Aimee and his nondescript brother, Felix. Each sibling arrives with their respective romantic interests. When one of them is shot dead with an arrow during the big family dinner, it quickly becomes clear that those stalking the house intend to take the family down one-by-one. The carnage that follows is a sight to behold.
You’re Next keeps it fun and fresh by diverging just enough from the entirely cliche reliance on characters making horribly unintelligent decisions. The pacing is right on and it maintains the suspense by not lingering too long on the death of any character. The film weaves in enough over-the-top, dark humor to relieve the tension as it sets up the next attack. It is this that keeps the film feeling balanced. If you want to see what is probably one of the smarter slasher flicks of the year, You’re Next should be on your list.
The rest of this review is going to be spoiler heavy and you may want to come back once you’ve seen the film.
At the very start of the You’re Next we’re introduced to the Davison family’s neighbor. The well-to-do, middle-aged man is shagging a college-aged and rather disinterested-looking lady. After the evening’s activities, the mostly naked woman heads downstairs to get a drink and listen to some music. As she investigates a sound outside, she’s murdered. Her killer scrawls the words, “You’re Next” in blood on the window. The home’s owner is also killed after he goes downstairs to check on her. This entire scene might exist to establish the possibility of the Davison family’s death as part of a horrific serial killing. Or, as a slightly less clever option, the couple was killed only to give the Davisons a much lower chance of being able to escape. The scene probably largely exists to physically work the film’s title in and to establish the one song the film could afford to use as a contrasting thematic device. In any of these scenarios, it still doesn’t need to exist as it does nothing to enhance the plot or move it forward.
I am also so, so tired of characters having to make moronic decisions in order to move the plot of a horror film along. If the door to your gigantic empty house is open and it shouldn’t be, turn right the hell back around and get the cops. If unknown attackers are knocking you off one-by-one using projectile weapons, don’t go out into an open space and try to make a run for it. All logic says stay where you are. Stay away from the windows. Wait for daylight and wait for the cops to arrive. For the love of God, don’t go off on your own. Your strength is in numbers. Come on horror film protagonists, work with me!
The one breath of fresh air is Crispian’s girlfriend, Erin. She attempts to discourage the others from making poor decisions and quickly establishes herself as someone with the knowledge and skills to potentially survive the attack. After she dispatches one of the family’s attackers, we learn that she grew up in a survivalist colony. It’s unfortunate that even she makes some choices that are not in keeping with her character. Having established her survivalist background, it makes little sense that she would attribute the electricity going out throughout the house to the circuit breaker going out and not the attackers. Erin, then proceeds to the basement alone to check out the circuit breaker. Sigh. Moving on…
We find out much later in the film that Crispian and Felix hired the attackers to eliminate the family for a big inheritance payday, with the intention of excluding of their own girlfriends from the list of those to be murdered. It’s a little bit pedestrian, but difficult to look down upon too greatly in a year rife with supernatural horror films. There were few scripting tells earlier on in the film that hinted at the brothers involvement in the plot. Crispian disappears mid-film. His absence is obvious and made so because they do not touch upon his character again until the very end and do nothing to throw you off his trail. The mention of Erin’s having grown up in a survivalist colony and not yet told Crispian makes it stick out as an important plot point. Equally, Felix and his girlfriend’s complete no-sell reaction to Erin’s violently killing one of the attackers set off flags. Though these were more subtle than you would find in other horror films, it would have still been nice if they threw in a couple of red herrings.
The most entertaining deaths in the film are that of the first attacker and Felix’s end. Erin scores survivalist points for finding a way to off a person with a blender.
Regardless of my gripes, You’re Next is still more intelligent that a number of other films seen this year, including the Evil Dead remake. Go see it. You probably won’t get to view it in the theaters, because no one saw it there. But perhaps you’ll be able to catch You’re Next when it’s out on DVD. When you do make sure to share your thoughts in the comments and on our forums.