You're Next

If you’re like me, you’ve been through this a lot. You’re watching a horror movie and it gets to that spot where the hero get’s the villain down. Maybe they hit him with a baseball bat, or a hammer, or a stray piece of firewood. Maybe they shot him. It doesn’t really matter how, it just matters that for a second the hero thinks that they have won. The killer looks to be unconscious. And you, the viewer, start gritting your teeth and muttering “don’t stop you idiot” because you know that this isn’t over. If the hero had any sense, they would keep swinging that chunk of firewood pounding into the killer’s face until it’s only making a hole in the floor because there’s no face (or skull, or brain) left to pound.

Erin (Sharni Vinson), the Final Girl of You’re Next quite pointedly does not make that mistake.  When gets one of the killers down, she doesn’t stop swinging her meat tenderizer until there is no question that he is dead. She’s serious and this is for real.  

You’re next is part of a film sub-genre that probably started with Wait Until Dark in which Audrey Hepburn is menaced and terrorized by Harry Roat from Scarsdale (Alan Arkin). The Home invasion film really ramped it up with Sam Peckinpah’s psychological gut-twister Straw Dogs and has had intermittent popularity since. For some reason, the genre has exploded in the last decade or so. Films like The Strangers, The Purge, Hush, Don’t Breathe and so many others keep treading the same ground.

You’re Next tries to bring a little something new to the game. After an introductory murder scene that sets the tone for what is to come, the plot proper   starts with a family gathering at a large country house for a celebration.  We quickly learn that there is a lot of tension between the siblings who have come for their parents’ wedding anniversary.  The arguments get genuinely nasty and you start to think about how bad they will feel when everyone starts being slaughtered by weirdos in animal masks (and, side note, what is it with masks in these films? Like, the plan is that there will be no survivors to tell the cops anything and the killers tend to be absolutely bugshit nuts, so why wear the masks (parenthetical parenthetical, a lot of this doesn’t actually apply here, as we will get to later))

Along for the ride is Erin, who is dating one of the brothers, Crispian (A.J. Bowen).  She will be the audience surrogate and the Final Girl, although we have no way of knowing that at the outset.

During a rather tense, and ugly dinner a crossbow bolt comes through a window killing Tariq (Ti West) the boyfriend of one of the sisters.  One of the brothers is also wounded. Chaos ensues, but Erin immediately starts taking charge and displaying skills that are surprising. She seems to know exactly what to do in this sort of situation. She’s also the clearest thinker, and the calmest person in the house.

It is really Erin that makes this movie stand out. She doesn’t make the dumb moves that we expect in this sort of film.  She does nearly everything right- not to say that she doesn’t make mistakes, if that were the case it would a rather dull experience for the viewer. Things have to go wrong. But she deals, she adjusts and she plans.  The audience is just rooting for her, we’re invested with her.

The film (spoilers ahead, folks - you're warned) has some clever things in store. This isn't a psycho killer situation, but rather a well planned heist of sorts. The attackers are ex-military types working for hire.  Who exactly is behind it and why will be revealed.

You’re Next has some pretty acerbic humor, and  an exceedingly dark attitude. It isn’t as nakedly nihilistic as The Strangers. It has one incredibly wicked twist, as well as one slightly more obvious one.  The kills are inventive and the gore, while not overwhelming, is strong.

The entire cast is solid in this well made, wonderfully constructed film.

One note on music. Looking for Magic by The Dwight Twilley Band is subversively used during several scenes. It’s annoyingly catchy, but underscores tension and terror. It get’s cut off just as it burrows into your head and threatens to become and earworm, then comes back just as you’ve forgotten it. This is the sort of genius touch that can really elevate a movie like this into art.

-Nathan Tyree