August 23, 2013

You're Next

Uh, I think there's a simpler way to carve the turkey

Grade: B +
Director: Adam Wingard
Starring: Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, AJ Bowen, Wendy Glenn, Joe Swanberg, Margaret Laney, Amy Seimetz, Rob Moran and Barbara Crampton
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

It takes less than five minutes for You’re Next to regurgitate the most basic horror movie trope: Sex = Death. But it doesn’t end there, as the film’s splatter fodder goes on to commit such unforgivable sins as wandering off alone and trying to “go get help.” Echoes of various thriller touchstones also bombinate, beginning with the 10 potential victims, an allusion to the nursery rhyme at the center of Agatha Christie’s oft-adapted and imitated novel And Then There Were None. There is a trio of archetypal shrouded villains, these wearing tiger, fox and lamb masks. There’s even a timely Night of the Living Dead reference. And, there’s an unlikely horror heroine in the midst of a bevy of scream queens.

What’s different is the film’s tone and characterizations. Made in 2011, the same year the Occupy Wall Street movement took root, You’re Next trains its sights on a family of self-absorbed 1 percenters with names like Crispian, Drake and Felix, whose simmering spite for one another is pacified only by distance and/or pharmacology. The Davison siblings and significant others have gathered for their parents’ wedding anniversary at a remote country manse (of course). Just as the brood’s passive aggression begins to erupt at a dinner party, an arrow shatters both a picture window and the family’s illusion of security.

With 10 targets, director Adam Wingard doesn’t have time to tarry with elaborate Saw-style torture porn. The kills come quick and fast, using such varied but basic implements as axes, knives, machetes, a crossbow, razor wire and miscellaneous kitchen utensils (including a blender). Turns out the only unlikely thing to beat back this home invasion is Erin (Sharni Vinson), an Aussie whose survivalist past was unknown even to boyfriend Crispian (AJ Bowen).

Horror movies are a popular staple for aspiring filmmakers because they’re cheap to make and easy to write. You’re Next doesn’t betray that tradition, but it succeeds in transcending it. The pervasive synth score is reminiscent of John Carpenter, but Wingard also employs the moldy oldie “Looking for the Magic” by the Dwight Twilley Band as its unofficial theme track. Amid all the homage, writer Simon Barrett (who also plays the Tiger Mask intruder) interjects a persistent black comedic undercurrent, less cheeky than Shaun of the Dead, more sardonic than Scream. The result is a film that’s fun without blunting its chills and thrills in the least. You’ll laugh, you’ll scream, you’ll have a bloody good time.

1 comment:

Dan O. said...

More fun than it was scary, but that was fine with me. Good review Neil.