You're Next made its premiere at Toronto International Film Festival in September 2011. Not only did it win multiple awards at a few festivals, but audiences claimed it to be the next classic to stand among some of the best horror movies in the past few decades. It continued to gain a serious amount of hype, both within and outside of the horror community. My fellow critics raved about how unique and well-constructed it is, but I still tried to keep my expectations contained. Lionsgate ultimately picked it up for distribution in America, but shelved it for a while. Fast forward to August 2013, and it is finally getting a nationwide release on the big screen. Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett have been quite popular in the horror community for a while, but this could be their big break into the mainstream. However, it's always important to realize that hyperbole is a common thing at film festivals.
The Davison family hasn't been together in years, but they finally have a reason to have a gathering. It's the parents' wedding anniversary, and is all they wanted was for all of their children to stay with them for a few days. Crispian (AJ Bowen) warns his younger girlfriend, Erin (Sharni Vinson), about how this gathering should be "interesting," but provides no further details. As each family member and their significant other arrives, the getaway finally gets started. Suddenly, a gang of mysterious killers wearing animal masks begins to pick them off one by one. Little do they know, one of the victims harbors a secret talent for fighting back.
The film opens with a structure that horror fans will find very familiar. While the first minute or so provides some intrigue, it quickly goes downhill. It's a very generic opening sequence that doesn't start off with a particularly impressive note. We're soon introduced to each character that will be taking residence in the house that will become a hunting ground. Crispian appears to be nervous, since this is the first time that Erin will be meeting his family. First, she meets his mother Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) and father, Paul (Rob Moran). Next are siblings Felix (Nicholas Tucci), Drake (Joe Swanberg), and Aimee (Amy Seimetz). They have brought their significant others Zee (Wendy Glenn), Kelly (Margaret Laney), and Tariq (Ti West). The film takes its time introducing each one, but all of them appear to be genre clichés, leaving Erin and Crispian as the only interesting roles in the house. Even when the story really gets going, it remains to be underwhelming.
One of the feature's main selling points is that it's supposedly a terrifying and fresh home invasion flick. Unfortunately, I didn't find either of those statements to be true after seeing it. There are a lot of "scares," but I don't consider a bunch of predictable jump-outs to be scary. You'll be able to guess every single "jump scare" from a mile away. Yes, there are a few "jump-outs" that are consisted of a family member tapping somebody's shoulder when the other slowly opens a door. It doesn't get more cliché than that. While there are some fresh elements to be found scattered throughout the running time, they aren't enough to carry the entire motion picture. Home invasion flicks have the potential to be some of the creepiest horror movies out there, but they rarely turn out to actually scare viewers. This one doesn't have an ounce of tension or the creep-factor needed to consider it to be actually scary. However, You're Next tries to infuse dark humor throughout. While you might chuckle once or twice, none of it is anything to write home about.
The first and second acts are pretty faulty, but the third act is when the magic happens. There are some elements taken from other movies such as Home Alone, but Erin proves to be the best asset of the entire motion picture. She's the only smart character on board, making her the only one worth watching. Not only does she set booby traps, but there are a few times when she fights them face-to-mask. This is most certainly the most fun you'll have during this movie. The only major disappointment to be found through the final act would be the major reveal of the killers. I predicted it fairly quickly, leaving the plot in an even more underwhelming position. Regardless, it's still incredibly entertaining. This is definitely the segment of the picture that will be a blast to watch with a group of rowdy friends. This film is entirely fueled off of watching this with others. Horror fans like myself will instantly fall in love with the final act for its brutality and aggression.
The acting is truly a mixed bag. While none of it is fantastic, some of it is pretty awful (even by low-budget horror movie standards). Sharni Vinson does a nice job in the role of Erin. She's convincing enough, and makes sure that we will definitely be rooting for her throughout. After all, she's our reason for having such a great time with You're Next. AJ Bowen's portrayal of Crispian is quite reserved, but he manages to be believable in the character. Joe Swanberg delivers the majority of the dark comedy in the role of Drake. It's a solid performance, especially considering the sequences that he has to somehow make convincing. The horrible end of the acting comes from Nicholas Tucci as Felix, Margaret Laney as Kelly, and Wendy Glenn as Zee. At my screening, these actors' performances were the reasons for a lot of unintentional laughs. The acting isn't meant to be impressive, but some of the representations are pretty horrid.
Director Adam Wingard is becoming a sensation for the horror community. He continues to create work that impresses his fans. When it comes to his visual style, he's generally quite successful. This holds true for You're Next. The atmosphere is excellent and the house is the perfect playground for these killers to hunt. Wingard's use of the color palette is phenomenal. However, his use of shaky-cam is unnecessary. He uses it in such an over-the-top way, that it becomes incredibly irritating. It feels as if he was filming while a huge earthquake was taking place. When it comes to the special effects department, the kills themselves are some of the coolest in quite some time. The prosthetics look pretty good, but the blood itself couldn't look more fake.
After hearing all of the insane amount of hype from the film festival circuit, I was really excited to get the chance to see Adam Wingard's home invasion flick. I'm a huge horror fan, so I really wanted to love this one. Unfortunately, I didn't find it to be scary, funny, or tense. The first two acts are rocky, but the third portion is an absolute blast. We finally have a badass protagonist who instantly fights back and isn't stupid. This is something worth noting. There aren't very many other unique things to be found. While it might sound like I have been trashing it, I didn't hate it. However, it didn't impress me like it did countless others through the duration of its festival run. While You're Next isn't as great as it could have been, it deserves to be your next rental with a group of your friends.