You're Next, the home invasion horror flick from Adam Wingard, played to an eager SXSW audience at a midnight screening (well, about twenty after midnight, actually) on Sunday. The movie, which was on the festival circuit in 2011 before being captured by Lionsgate, has gained a reputation as an off-the-wall, genuinely spooky, and original horror flick. So does it live up to the hype from the horror community?
You're Next, which feels like the fun house mirror version of the bleak The Strangers (that flick had no levity whatsoever, while this one often lets its audience laugh... hard), has more plot twists than it knows what to do with and killer(s) motives that doesn't quite match the absolutely horrendous crimes committed. But that doesn't mean you won't scream while you're watching it or check under the bed when you get home.
The film revolves around a wealthy family who have a get-together at their picturesque, albeit isolated (of course) rural home. The family bickers and catches up like any clan, but their otherwise nice dinner turns to bloody, chaotic mayhem when a band of masked villains (they wear animal masks, like lambs, in case you were wondering what the next couple years of your nightmares will look like) begin hunting them. Quite literally. With arrows.
The thing that upset me most about You're Next, watching family members scream and cry for their loved ones, was also the thing that made me appreciate it in the horror realm. Too often in horror movies, characters see their friends and family slaughtered, give a shriek, and move on like nothing happened. You're Next does the exact opposite, which only makes it all the more unbearable to watch. What makes a horror movie "fun" in so many cases is its utter detachment. Watching a mourning mother wail for her daughter whose neck has been cut by a trap wire is not fun. F**king scary, though? You bet.
One by one, the family is getting picked off, with bloodier and bloodier results, but as the numbers begin to dwindle, Erin (a breakout performance from Sharni Vinson), a girlfriend of one of the sons begins to fight back. See, little did these invaders realize she grew up on a survivalist compound. By the time the identity and motives of the mysterious killers are figured out and Erin has shifted into full-blown kick-ass horror heroine, the film shifts gears from grim massacre to a fun 80s slasher flick.
That's not to say the scares dwindle (there's some truly unnerving imagery and a particularly disturbing exchange that happens over the body of a family member) but cheers and laughter take over in the latter half of the film. In the end, the tonally challenged You're Next sort of feels like a Frankenstein of horror movies (except, maybe, Frankenstein). All of the elements of the horror classics are there, so if you're looking for something totally innovative from your horror movie, this isn't it. (Cabin in the Woods has set the bar far too high). If you're looking for familiar bump-in-the-night scares with a big finale payoff, then You're Next will have been worth the wait.
[Photo credit: Taylor Glascock]