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In an amusing recurring gag, the Dwight Twilley Band's "Looking for Magic," from their 1977 LP Twilley Don't Mind, plays on loop from the CD player of the philandering couple murdered in the opening scene of You're Next, Director Adam Wingard's very funny, very bloody and long-shelved horror film. This isn't the wink wink, nudge nudge comedy of Scream but something more subtle. Make no mistake, though, there are intentional laughs to be had amid the carnage. When animal-masked attackers target an isolated family, a leader rises among the cowering, bickering ranks. This outsider fights back while others have their throats slashed. Australian actress and model Sharni Vinson's Erin refuses to die at the hands of the murderous lamb, fox or tiger, and proves an exciting young talent. It makes sense that You're Next was shelved for two years before making a low-impact box office run: The film is over-the-top violent and relentlessly entertaining; an enigma amid the poor excuses for horror films that litter multiplexes and rake in cash.
Ma and Pa Davison (Barbara Crampton and Rob Moran) invite their adult children to an anniversary celebration at their Missouri vacation home. In attendance are Crispian (A. J. Bowen) and girlfriend Erin (Vinson); Drake (Joe Swanberg) and wife Kelly (Margaret Laney); Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and girlfriend Zee (Wendy Glenn); and youngest sibling Aimee (Amy Seimetz) and boyfriend Tariq (Ti West). No sooner does the family settle down to a dinner packed with awkward conversation and steadily rising tempers than a crossbow bolt shatters a window and buries itself deep into the face of one guest. Unseen attackers fire upon the sprawling home, sending the Davisons and company diving for cover. Armed with all manner of deadly weapons, the attackers, each of whom wears an animal mask, wage unexpected war on the visitors.
Shot over four weeks in early 2011, You're Next debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in September of the same year. For whatever reason, it took Lionsgate almost two years to give the film a U.S. theatrical release. I wish I'd seen You're Next during its theatrical run because it really begs for the clapping, gasping and screams of an engaged midnight audience. The gore is vicious and exaggerated; each kill sends blood or body parts flying. No member of the family is safe. Wingard includes a nice mix of jump scares and earned jolts, and adds in several "here it comes" deaths where cast members walk right into easily recognizable traps. Part of the fun of You're Next is knowing exactly how these oblivious characters will die. The film is funny, too. The aforementioned boneheaded characters act this way because it's funny. That obnoxious movie patron that always yells at the screen during horror movies? Wingard one-ups them by skirting logic for intentional humor. He knows his audience will be laughing and yelling at the screen as the least likeable characters find the incoming knives, axes and blenders. The film is also a darkly comedic family drama, and the opening dinner scene sees the Davison brothers bickering about weight gain, romance and salary. This bickering continues - rather hilariously I might add - during the subsequent mayhem. Why not argue with your brother about getting fat while someone lays dying at your side?
Erin is the only character with a survival instinct, and she takes it upon herself to Kevin-McAllister the house right up, laying down nails and glass to hurt the Animals. The "how" and "why" of the attack isn't unexpected, but the finale allows Erin to go nuts on her tormentors. You're Next is clever but never tiresome. Wingard, who also had segments in V/H/S and V/H/S/2 and will release The Guest this month, has a keen eye for framing, composition and staging action segments, and I look forward to his future projects. I also look forward to seeing more of Vinson, who steals every scene she is in. You're Next is bloody good fun and deserves to find a bigger audience. I think you'll enjoy it.
The 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is strong, with excellent detail in close-ups and wide shots. Texture is abundant throughout the Davison home and surrounding woods, and shadow detail is impressive. That's a good thing, because this is a very dark movie. Darkness is used to ramp up the tension, but the transfer allows viewers to see the danger within the blackness. Colors are somewhat warm, as the initial dinner scene sets a soft, comfortable atmosphere that is quickly dispelled. I noticed few issues with digital noise, no problems with artifacting, and no noise reduction or edge enhancement.
That Dwight Twilley Band song will be stuck in your head all week thanks to this active 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The musical components are excellently balanced and dispersed across the sound field, and all elements play in perfect harmony. Dialogue is crisp and perfectly audible, and both active and ambient effects are used to great effect. The film's sound design is impressive, and this mix plays up the horror elements like creaking doors, unseen sirens and murder effects. Thou will be surrounded by terror and rocked by the subwoofer, too. A Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is also included, as are English, English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc set includes the Blu-ray, a DVD copy of the film and a code to redeem an UltraViolet HD Digital Copy. There is a matching slipcover, too. Commentary fans rejoice, you get two: An Audio Commentary by Director Adam Wingard and Writer Simon Barrett and an Audio Commentary by Director Adam Wingard, Writer Simon Barrett and Actors Sharni Vinson and Barbara Crampton. Both tracks are very talky, in a good way, and I enjoyed the director's comments about how he tried to move beyond genre cliches to create something fresh. There's also a brief making-of, No Ordinary Home Invasion: The Making of You're Next (11:41/HD), and the film's Theatrical Trailer (2:13/HD).
Don't let the film's extended stay in the Lionsgate vault before its release deter you, You're Next is an excellent time in the home theater. This horror/black comedy from Director Adam Wingard is packed with over-the-top gore and domestic-drama humor, and Australian actress Sandra Vinson proves a worthy adversary for three animal-masked killers. Horror fans will want to check this out. Highly Recommended.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.