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Home is where the heart is. Home is where you feel the most comfortable, safe and vulnerable. It’s even where you hang your hat, or at least according to that sign I saw one time, so the idea of an unwelcome intruder making himself at home while trying to viciously murder you is the perfect recipe for a horror film. Films like Alone in the Dark or The Strangers have clearly illustrated to us that home is not always the safest place and now, You’re Next fits right in at home (pun clearly intended) in this category. Even hiding under the sheets won’t save you.
As a disturbing couple unfortunately learns (and by that, I mean an old male teacher and his young female student) the hard way. After earning what I’m assuming is her “passing grade,” he hops in the shower and the young lady listens to music in shame. Unfortunately, her time listening to “Looking for the Magic” by the Dwight Twilley Band is “cut” short! Hey, it’s not that bad of a song! Upon exiting the shower, he sees “You’re Next” written large and bold in her blood (as well as cleverly serving as the movie’s title card) on the sliding glass doors and then meets his doom by a man in a lamb mask. Ba-ba black sheep, ba-ba bye!
The family next door gathers for their wealthy parents anniversary, unaware of the grisly murder that took place next door, bringing brothers Crispian (AJ Bowen), his noogie giving older brother Drake (V/H/S‘ Joe Swanberg), their seemingly wormy younger brother Felix and their naive younger sister Aimee. She also happens to be the only one in the family without some poetic hip hop artist’s name. By the way, Dad just so happened to have recently retired from a major defense contract company and has accumulated quite the wealth. Accompanying the siblings are their significant others, making for plenty of victims at this buffet! Speaking of a buffet, after some scenes of sibling rivalry between various… um, siblings, they all put their differences aside for the moment and gather around the table for dinner. But little do they know, they are about to have some unexpected guests…
During some bickering between Drake and Crispian, Aimee’s boyfriend, Tariq (played by House of the Devil and The Innkeepers director, Ti West, as what seems like a character of the “indie” filmmaker), glances out the window and gives a look like he saw something outside. As he gets up and moves to the window to peer outside, the bickering between the two brothers heats up when suddenly an arrow crashes through the window and pierces Tariq’s head. This slowly grabs everyone attentions as it takes Tariq a few moments to die just as a hailstorm of arrows come flying into the house through the window, one hitting Drake in the back. Crispian’s girlfriend, Erin, instantly goes into survival mode, shouting for everyone to get down and take cover using chairs to block them as they run past the windows. How did she know how to do that… or to think so quickly on her feet? In an escape attempt, Aimee wants to prove her worth to the family (because, you know this is clearly the best time for that) and tells them that she can run to get help. Her brothers don’t argue it, but are polite enough to let her dash out the front door in slow motion, which actually builds up the tension quite nicely as to what will happen next… it’ll definitely knock the wind out of you. Wink.
Mom (played by the ever youthful looking Re- Animator actress Barbara Crampton… surprised it took me this long in the review to mention she’s in this movie) isn’t feeling so well, you know, giving that she just witnessed some sporadic murders. The boys take her upstairs to her bedroom where it is safe, since the intruder is outdoors. But this is where we learn that intruder is intruders (however, you should have known this from all of the promotional materials and TV spots) as one of them in a fox mask creeps out from under the bed wielding a machete like he’s Jason Voorhees.
Realizing they aren’t safe inside or outside of the house, panic ensues! Erin tries to keep everyone calm just as one of the assailants in a tiger mask crashes the party, literally, through the window in slow motion (club music cue?). See? This is why you don’t feed stray animals! They’ll come into the house! Attacking Erin, she falls to the floor. He raises his ax, but she kicks him in the jewels, rendering him vulnerable as she smashes in his head in with a meat tenderizer! Erin clearly has some survival skills and starts barking orders, booby trapping the house like she’s John Rambo. Trust me, I mean that as a compliment. Erin could easily be one of horror film’s smartest and deadliest “final girl.” You do not want to experience her mood swings.
As they are securing the home and trying to stay alive, we discover someone among them has ulterior motives and not is all what it seems. I know “twist” can be a taboo word nowadays, given the stank that M. Night Shyamalan has seemingly permanently attached to it, but it’s pulled off rather intelligently here. Who can you trust? Who do you believe? Erin can only count on herself as she tries to fight the animal masked thugs one by one and discovers an awful truth behind the invasion.
I really don’t want to give anymore of the plot away and I fear I may have said too much already. It’s something you simply must experience. You’re Next is kinda like Home Alone for grown ups, only these booby traps are practical and given Erin’s back story, it makes it more plausible. The kills are downright brutal and practical, making them painfully cringe worthy. Blood pores from every wound with it’s creative and devastating kills that will be sure to get a positive and varied reaction out of you.
You’re Next is a beast, personified by the animal masks that the films stalkers wear. It’s self aware, but rather than make a mockery of itself, it plays on your expectations, misleading you along the way and then gives you something you weren’t expecting. For what it is, it’s an ambitious little film that succeeds in conveying survival horror. The killers themselves are given motive for the crimes, as one dimensional as it may seem, but trust me, it isn’t. It gives them a reason to be there and to be doing what they are doing, rather than leaving them to be faceless killers. Also, these are, hands down, some of the coolest masks that you’ll see killers wear in a movie. These are so cool, that the price of cheap novelty animal masks have sky rocketed (believe me, I checked).
Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett took a risk and tried to give something old a new spin. Normally, this could have come off as goofy and tired, but it’s the characters that make it work. The brothers act like real brothers, arguing over nonsense and holding ridiculous grudges and the parents are seemingly actual loving parents who want nothing more than the best and safety for their children. The actors, some of which are filmmakers themselves or Adam Wingard regulars, do a phenomenal job at bringing these characters to life that you actually feel for them and the terrible event they are going though. It’s a prime example of everything that comes together and works. The twist can throw you off at first, but the film carries it so well that the home invasion/slasher turned survival horror blends seamlessly that you wouldn’t want it any other way.
I can’t say enough positive things about this movie. Simply put, I love You’re Next. It sat on the shelf for two years (yup, it was made before V/H/S) and it was well worth the wait. So, cuddle up with a loved one, lock the windows, bolt the doors and watch You’re Next. But, be sure to check under the bed before you go to sleep.
Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.
Watch the trailer for “You’re Next!”