Eye For Film >> Movies >> You're Next (2013) Film Review
Reviewed by: David Graham
One of the new guard of promising American genre directors - having distinguished himself through stark serial killer drama A Horrible Way To Die and V/H/S's wrap-around - director Adam Wingard's latest arrives on a wave of festival buzz, but it's hard to see what all the fuss is about. It's another in the recent spate of home invasion thrillers, but without the futuristic setting of The Purge or the real-time immediacy of Kidnapped, it becomes a booby-trapped Bay Of Blood clone, with a vein of black comedy that recalls Home Alone. Wingard's direction is solid enough to keep game audiences perched on seat-edge, but the patchy performances and frequent collaborator Simon Barrett's script are obvious at best and ridiculous at worst, often coming off like an indie horror attempt at Festen-style theatrics.
An affluent but dysfunctional family are meeting for dinner at their parents' sprawling woodland mansion, complete with a raft of new and familiar partners. It's not long before bickering gives way to outright verbal attack, but long-held resentments are the least of their worries when a group of masked murderers makes its presence known, picking off the party one by one. As the blood spills and the guests get split up, the survivors try to work out the motives of the intruders and how to escape their deadly traps, but they may just have a secret weapon in their midst in the form of college lecturer Crispian's student girlfriend Erin.
A brutal pre-credit sequence features a thankless cameo from Larry Fessenden, but does nothing to distinguish Wingard's efforts from predecessors like The Strangers, other than including a would-be iconic titular message to unnecessarily spook the victims and hopefully excite the viewer. It's a classical scene that's probably meant to hint at the would-be subversive role women are to play in comparison to the men, but it's actually a pretty depressing observation of how young attractive girls will suffer older partners for the most shallow of reasons.
From there a comedy of manners ensues between the snotty siblings and their posh-but-decent parents, marking out each of them as potentially loathsome and therefore ideal cannon fodder. Re-Animator legend Barbara Crampton and Farrelly Bros regular Rob Moran make for unusually agreeable yuppies, while AJ Bowen is reliably solid as Crispian, but it's V/H/S director Joe Swanberg who steals all the best lines as the incessantly needling Drake. Ti West also crops up in a subtle supporting role while Wendy Glenn makes for a suitably aloof goth stereotype, but for better and worse the majority of the action is dominated by Step Up 3D wonder-woman Sharni Vinson, an impressive physical presence as Erin but not exactly the world's greatest actress.
Throwaway allusions to modern politics are dropped in on occasion but for no discernible reason, while the explanation for Erin's exterminating abilities is lazy in the extreme (at least it lets Vinson keep her Aussie accent). It all boils down to sub-Wes Craven fantasy, not quite ridiculous or extreme enough to be roof-raising but silly enough to throw the potentially menacing tone off-balance. And the villains themselves are bland to the point of being a waste of time, their eventual characterisation revealing them to be about as disinterested in what's going on as the audience may well end up.
The violence is particularly problematic - some of it is bracing in its nastiness, but much of it is undermined by how comically resilient the characters can be, while several of the most brutal moments are lifted wholesale from far superior flicks like Martyrs and A Nightmare On Elm Street. By the end, it's all a little deadening, and Wingard's infuriating camerawork only makes it harder to care about what's going on when you can't even make it out half the time.
You're Next is an efficient modern horror flick that ticks all the boxes for its target audience, but it's less than the sum of its parts and fails to amount to anything memorable. Its trickiness will keep audiences involved for the duration, but its lack of originality is ultimately dispiriting, especially after Wingard's previous work. He'll no doubt move on to even bigger productions, but hopefully he'll manage to apply the indie spark he's worked wonders with before to something a little less predictable next time out.Reviewed on: 29 Aug 2013