You’re Next, for inexplicable reasons, sat on the shelf for two years until it was allowed to see the light of day. One has to question the wisdom of Hollywood when a film this enjoyable rots in lockup while the theatres fill with useless wastes of celluloid.
The film opens with a through-a-cracked-door shot punctuated with an ominous noise – we see what appears to be a violent struggle. We soon find out what we’re witnessing is decidedly less malignant, but undoubtedly much more real-world relatable – bad sex. Just like that, You’re Next establishes itself as, if not quite a full horror comedy, perhaps a horredy – just a little bit of comedy mixed in with the grue. Unlike Scream or Cabin in the Woods, there’s no winking here – all the comedy is situational, and springs from the interactions between the actors. Soon, the disinterested ingenue gets it, the fat, bad-sex inflicting professor catches sight of a blood-scrawled You’re Next, and the kills are on.
In honour of their 35th wedding anniversary, medicated mother Aubrey (Re-animator’s Barbara Crampton) and pasty milquetoast Big Defense dad Paul (Rob Moran) invite the fam to celebrate at their country home just up the road from the dead academic lothario. Doughy bearded trembling intellectual son Crispin and his spry Aussie girlfriend. Frat boy big bro Drake (played to cocky perfection by filmmaker and actor Joe Swanberg – “It doesn’t mean he’s fat. All the fat on him means he’s fat. Don’t go just by his face,” he prods Crispin with after a big-brotherly bit of physical sparring dominance). Their princess daughter Amiee (Amy Seimetz) and her bescarfed indie documentarian boyfriend Tariq (played by filmmaker Ti West). “Lowlife” son Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and his smirking gothy girl Zee (Wendy Glen). We get a bit of social satire familial jousting around the dinner table, where upper crust American perfection devolves into chaotic bickering, but it’s not long before the real chaos starts and the film settles into the rhythm of hunter/prey, attacks and traps. However rote that sounds, it’s all very well done, and we’re treated to some creative kills, including one exceptionally creative use of a common household appliance. Perhaps there’s something more here with the pacifist son of a military contractor bigwig and the ex-military skulkers…or perhaps not. If not, what we’ve got is damn fun and well made, and that’s enough.
Like the majority of slasher films, this one has the feminist slant – the women are consistently underestimated (although perhaps no one ever believed in poor Aimee for good reasons), the hysterical mother is ignored despite being right to be worried, and of course, we’ve got a final girl, although You’re Next’s example of the trope is considerably more capable and kick-ass than most – our girl comes equipped and ready for any takers.
You’re next is often beautifully shot, particularly the father/mother car ride to the country home – establishing shots of a low prairie, and the dark woods beyond. The beautifully evocative animal masks and those woods that enclose the Davison home lend a dark fairy tale-like feel to the proceedings. Also worth mentioning is the great score which runs from ominous horns to propulsive throbbing electronics that scratch the Carpenter-Howarth itch, and the importance placed on sound – razor-wire twang, meaty thwacks, crunch of glass, the mechanical chirp of a CD on repeat returning to track 1, 0:00.
Funny, smart, with a kick-ass heroine and creative kills, You’re Next is thoroughly enjoyable. Here’s hoping Adam Wingard’s next feature won’t languish on the shelves like this one did.