You’re Next debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011, and then, nothing. Despite getting a good reception at the festival, it sat on a shelf for two years without a national or international release.
However, that can sometimes do wonders for a movie. It gets people whispering, and raises questions. Why exactly is it sat on that shelf? Is it just mired in some sort of legal wrangle? Maybe those festival goers are wrong, and maybe the movie is so bad, that nobody knows what to do with it, other than torch it with a flamethrower.
Whatever the reasons, it’s here now. And the two-year wait has been good PR. It certainly got me interested, even though I wasn’t a big fan of Adam Wingard’s previous full length film, A Horrible Way To Die. That movie was directed on the basis that you get the camera crew smashed on Tequila Slammers, then set them loose. The result being the camera drifting downwards at the end of each scene, as the cameraman slumped to the floor in an alcoholic daze.
The Ripley of home invasion horror movies
Thankfully, the woozy camera is absent in You’re Next, other than for a few scenes of out-and-out chaos. And even then, the action is much easier to keep a track of, which is a relief. Overall, it feels like a much more accomplished effort than A Horrible Way to Die, which erred towards the pretentious, that of a film school student trying way too hard.
You’re Next starts fairly slow, with half an hour of build up. We get a very rudimentary feel for who the characters are, as they all meet for a big family dinner in an isolated house: mum, dad, brothers, sisters, and their other halves. Most of them are there to act as cannon (or rather, axe and crossbow) fodder for three animal masked lunatics who suddenly show up. They look pretty cool and scary at the same time, and put me in mind of video game, Hotline Miami.
Yep, it’s another home invasion horror movie, along the lines of Them and The Strangers. It also takes inspiration from a few Wes Craven movies (with a pinch of Home Alone), where seemingly ordinary people prove to have greater resources and spirit than their attackers ever expected. One of the girlfriends, played by Sharni Vinson, gives as good as she gets. Vinson is on fine form, proving to be tough and clear-headed, yet still vulnerable. Out of all the characters, you’ll find her’s is the one you root for the most. Despite the large cast, it’s near enough a one woman show. It’s great fun watching her go toe-to-toe with the bad guys. She’s like the Ripley of home invasion horror movies.
Refreshingly, we also get a clear motivation for the attack beyond simple insanity. That motivation isn’t revealed until nearer the end, and I’ll be honest, it’s a little hard to believe. Not because of the twist itself. It's just a feeling that enough early groundwork hasn’t been done with the characters to make it totally convincing. Regardless, it fits the film’s tone which at times can be more comical than scary. It’s been compared to Scream in that respect, and whilst it’s not quite the same game changer (Scream came at a time when Hollywood seemed to have abandoned horror), that the attackers have a plan kept me watching, curious to know the outcome, and probably feeling less grubby about watching a film full of mindless, brutal violence for the sake of it.
If you take anything away from You’re Next, take this: you now have a new, cheap, Halloween costume to wear. Just don’t start smearing messages on windows in other people’s blood, and you’ll be golden.