Directed by Adam Wingard
Starring Sharni Vinson, AJ Bowen, Rob Moran, Joe Swanberg, Nicholas Tucci, , Wendy Glenn, Andy Seimetz, Barbara Crampton
With last years Cabin in the Woods, screenwriter Joss Whedon and director Drew Goddard subverted the epoch of cabin-based teen slasher films, amalgamating the tropes of the genre in a style that was at once mocking and pedestalizing horror. In a way, they reminded us why the genre still mattered and what exactly about it was so much fun. In similar fashion, You’re Next employs gleeful violence and sardonic storytelling to solidify the paramount import of the horror’s existence. In viscous-smattered effect, it is bloody, simple, unadulterated fun at the movies worthy of strong consideration for any horror buff.
While there’s no use spoiling any of the twists and turns down the road, the story follows Erin, played by a joyfully manic Sharni Vinson, ex-student and recent girlfriend to Crispian (AJ Bowen). Crispian takes Erin on a meet-the-parents excursion for an impromptu family reunion/slaughterfest. Although the picture-perfect family is affluent (the father, a recently retired defense contractor), the four siblings, and their respective lovers, certainly share a bit of deeply rooted familial animosity.
Crispian, our doorway into the family, is seen as a bit of a flunkie, regardless of his status as a college professor. His father (Rob Moran) disapprovingly asks about the latest grant that Crispian failed to earn, reminding him that excuses about his not being recently published haven’t held his peers back from similar accolades. Although Erin tells him that he’s lucky to have such a big (but mostly rich) family, Crispian stews while his mother (Barbara Crampton) pops pills.
Drake, his older brother, also has a penchant for pushing his buttons, dredging up embarrassing stories from their youth and never short on a supply of fat jokes. He’s played by a slyly machismo Joe Swanberg who has this comedic one-uppery in the bag. Even when the body count starts piling up, Swanberg’s swift one-liners earn uproarious responses from the well-milked audience. Nicholas Tucci plays black-sheep-brother Felix, there with post-punk-rocker girlfriend Zee (Wendy Glenn), a cowardly duo who seem especially inadequate seen next to the family baby, and easily most-loved family member, Aimee (Amy Seimetz).
The family dynamic around the dinner table is absolutely biting, reminding us of the most ill fated of familial run-ins. But all these petty inter-family skirmishes are swept under the rug when well-timed bolts start flying through the window, skewering those caught indoors. Outside, a crew of animal-masked villains lurk saddled up with bow’n’arrows, machetes, axes and various weapons of minor destruction. Inside, the family starts to fall apart.
The ensuing, “We’re all going to die” shriek of inevitability is served with a strongly bent comedy note, dishing up some genuine belly laughs that are hard to place in a genre that tries, and often fails, to capitalize on such campy mockery. Having splashed the audience with blood and dumped them into stitches, everything takes off at a hundred miles an hour. From here on out, nothing is subdued, nothing held back. It’s a speeding train that races towards the conclusion without stopping for a breath of air. Contiguously, each scene is played up in merry fashion, splattered with gore and dished up with aplomb. Searching through the combination of elements that makes the film so fun, it’s really hard to narrow it down to a particular performance, directorial choice or stylistic pursuit. Instead, it is very much the result of the sum being greater than the parts.
Director Adam Wingard, for his part, shows a real commitment to the genre, having functioned exclusively within the horror framework for all of his 15 short and full-length films since his rookie effort Home Sick (directed at a mere 19.) His watchful eye, aided by stark cinematography from Andrew Droz Palermo, and sense of pounding pace makes for an exciting thrill ride that manages to look strangely serene, far from the human ugliness unwinding on screen. Add to that the throbbing score by Jasper Justice Lee, Mads Heldtberg, and Kyle McKinnon to build up visceral notes of adrenaline and this whirligig throttles along. Perhaps the element driving it into the next level is guided by a caliber of empowered shero in Vinson that we haven’t seen since Sam Raimi‘s fantastic Drag Me To Hell. This girl interrupted is surely not one to be fucked with.
Laughter is the best medicine, even if it’s derived from something as tasteless and self-deprecating as You’re Next. If you’re the type who finds yourself snickering at over-the-top scenarios and aren’t easily put off by blood squirting around in thick streams, this is the brand of horror flick custom built for you. Between the creatively inventive kills, the brisk pace and unassuming tip-of-the-hats to the audience, it’s a grade-A thrill ride that I can already see as one that’d be easy to revisit again and again. Even if you strip the film down to the bare bones and take Sharni Vinson‘s Erin running around causing Home Alone-styled ruckus, you’d have an experience worth the price of admission.