Shelved for nearly 2 years, making noise at film festivals everywhere and having one of the best marketing campaigns for any movie this year (love those animal masks), the independent horror movie You're Next is still an enigma of sorts.
Watching the trailers for the film, one gets the distinct feeling that this is just another horror/slasher flick about a group of dumb people stuck in the woods getting knocked off one by one by an unknown assailant. Well, you would be right about all of that except for the fact that this is much, much more than just another horror movie. Read the full review after the break.
When a group of siblings gather at their family vacation home deep in the woods for their parent's anniversary, their plans get put on hold when they find themselves relentlessly stalked by an unknown group of attackers who begin killing them off one by one in increasingly gruesome manners. As their numbers begin to dwindle, so do their chances of surviving this horrific nightmare.
This has been one of the most successful years the horror genre has seen in quite a while, speaking both financially and critically. Mama, the Evil Dead remake, The Purge and The Conjuring have all done respectable business (with The Conjuring in particular breaking all kinds of box office records). If they have proved one thing for sure, it is that horror fans want fresh new experiences instead of sequel after sequel shoveled out (we will forgive that Evil Dead remake though since it was actually good).
While the remainder of the year seems to consist of only another remake (Carrie) and our first legitimate sequel thus far with Insidious: Chapter 2 (no Paranormal Activity for the first time in 5 years either), there is still one last original, non-sequel, non-remake horror film to grace theaters. That film is You're Next, and thankfully for us it continues this years tradition of offering a fresh new horror experience that may liberally borrow from its horror brethren that came before it, but at least infuses enough unique elements of its own to one up most other horror flicks as well as those that inspired it.
Director Adam Wingard isn't exactly new to the horror genre (he has made a handful of short horror films), but rest assured after word spreads about his new (newly released anyway) horror flick and how expertly it turns the tables on what most have come to expect from your standard home invasion formula, he will become a household name for sure.
It's difficult to really delve into what makes You're Next stand out from the onslaught of direct-to-video horror nonsense out there without divulging its secrets, of which the film's many trailers have expertly kept under wraps. But what can be discussed is the remarkable craftsmanship that Wingard displays at creating this heightened sense of tension that lasts from the blood soaked beginning to the blood drenched massacre finale. He shows a restraint that is both admirable and surprising which helps punctuate its more horrific moments instead of reveling in them, which is too often the case with this genre.
The first of many things Wingard gets right is something most horror filmmakers usually take for granted, he gives us actual characters, with personalities, of whom we can identify with on an admittedly simplified level. By allowing us to get to know this family as they are introduced one by one, he is preparing us to fail, but to fail in the best way possible. You see, usually when characters are introduced in films of this ilk, it is expected that each one will die in a preordained set of circumstances depending on their distinct personality trait. Wingard uses that very same thing against us by creating a set number of expectations that are never actually met, and in turn creates something that is both old and new without ever coming off as convoluted or contrived.
All too often when presented with a number of characters who each fill in an expected role, the asshole, the slut, the bitch, the tough guy, the weakling or the outsider, we have had it drilled into our subconscious what fate awaits for them which generally proves to be true. However, the characters that make up this family don't really fit into any of those categories, they feel like real people. Sure, there are ones that you don't like over others, but none feel like they were written to fit a certain stereotype. It's a fine line Wingard walks here and he walks it well.
What you should take away from all of this is that just because you like a particular character doesn't mean they are safe until the end and just because you despise a character doesn't mean you should expect them to die immediately. As a matter of fact, expecting anything with this film is just silly because it can, and will, prove you wrong at multiple points . As you bear witness to this family being taken out one after another, you quickly begin to realize that Wingard doesn't give a dam about the so called rules of the genre, instead he wants to throw you for a loop, to pull the rug out from under your feet and he does this with nary a hitch in his step.
Without a doubt the best thing about You're Next is that you never know what will actually happen next, which makes every single scene a nail-biter in ways you can't even imagine. There are so many red herrings strewn throughout the film, most that don't even register as a potential red herring for that matter, that when the revelations start pouring in about who these attackers are, what they want and whether or not they are just psychopaths or have ulterior motives, it all combines to make for a wild roller coaster ride of a movie through a house of proverbial mirrors that will have audiences cheering and howling at the screen as the film rushes to its final climatic bloody encounter.
In all honesty, the film's worst aspect is also its best trait, which is that it works best if you think of it as a run-of-the-mill home invasion movie going into it. If you even have a hint as to what occurs later in the film, anything at all, the foundation comes crushing down. It's not so much that it ceases to be fun, the excitement factor is just severely hindered when you see its many brilliant twists and turns coming before the film properly sets itself up to reveal them to you. If the one thing that is keeping you from seeing the film is that it looks like every other slasher flick ever made, please don't let that detract you, and go see the most original horror movie of the year immediately.