The October Diaries: You’re Next

Illustration by Max Brown
Blurbs by Sean & Christof

October 28th, 2014:
You’re Next

Year: 2011
Director: Adam Wingard
Format: Blu-ray
From Wikipedia: When the Davison family comes under attack during their wedding anniversary getaway, the gang of mysterious killers soon learns that one of the victims harbors a secret talent for fighting back.

Christof’s Take:

I haven’t seen a lot of home invasion horror so I can’t judge it against its subcategory-mates, but as far as horror-at-large goes, I was pretty wrapped up in it. Part of the charm could be seeing “the gang get back together” from last night. Some key cast members from The Sacrament are here again, as well as its director, Ti West. Joe Swanberg, who is also a director of many wonderful things, plays a member of the family. West’s character mentions he is a filmmaker.  

Listen, this is small piece of a larger scene with other intentions, but I can’t tell you the giddiness I felt watching Joe Swanberg’s character telling Ti West’s character how much he loves commercials, and how he thinks that’s where some of the best film making is being done these days. Might be my favorite moment. Moving on.

The film has a wonderful ensemble cast that knows how to work familial tension in ways that feels live in: honest, humorous, and uncomfortable. Because of this, it earns the coveted trophy for making it difficult to watch this group get picked off by these well-organized, animal-masked killers, who are more evocative of rogue militia members than psycho-slashers.

Since we seem to be dealing with tacticians, it puts a little more fear of believability into the formula than if the common enemy were the typical sort that wants to instill fear almost as much as wanting to murder. Our killers are on a mission to kill, not to haunt — with the questionable-but-neato exception of somehow finding the time to write the foreboding words, “You’re Next” in blood on the occasional wall or window.

However, their plan to swiftly kill everyone in the house is disrupted by our hero of action, Erin (Sharni Vinson), a guest of the family, and one that is surprisingly but believably well-equipped for a property crawling with killers. As she takes pages from Kevin McCallister’s book and starts Home-Aloning the house, we learn these particular smarts and skills come from a strange upbringing on a survivalist compound. 

Overall highlights include the aforementioned dinner scene, a few inventive kills, and a female lead who has way more up her sleeve than running all over the house while screaming and crying.

It’s an easy one to recommend. Watch it!


You're Next Title Card Photo

Sean’s Take:

This might be the first home invasion movie I’ve ever seen that felt like a romp. It had the zip and the pep of a 90’s action movie and that’s a real tender compliment if you know me at all. I usually avoid a lot of home invasion horror because I know it makes me uncomfortable in a way I don’t enjoy. There’s something about the familial suffering and the violation of the sanctity of the home (“this is my castle” type shit) that upsets me in a way where I’m not having fun smiling at the void anymore, now I’m just cringing my soul into it.

With those preferences in mind, it was particularly amazing to find that You’re Next was able to successfully combine this sinister narrative thread with the families-coming-home-together sub-genre I enjoy so much (think The Family Stone meets The Strangers). The end result is something I had a lot of fun watching (we also had a packed living room full of great friends to help expedite the joy). Still, I would credit You’re Next as a very unique success.

It was a sharp move on director Adam Wingard’s part to make the family goofy/awful enough with their behavior to one another so as to make the gut-punches land softer with the audience when these blood relations finally start getting systematically offed. These characters weren’t full-on evil at all, but they were annoying enough to remind the audience of those same traits they might see in their own family. Then, when we get to see this poor family get savaged, we get a just a wink of sly catharsis.

It was also very satisfying to feel your confidence in one of the characters rise over the course of the movie. One woman, Erin (played with a wonderful energy by Sharni Vinson) starts exhibiting a surprising amount of survival skills in combatting the terrorizers. At one point I even feared for one of the bad guys as he was being stalked by Erin (strange emotional alchemy is stirred when you’re more scared at what she might do to the bad guys than what the bad guys might do to her).

There is apparently a rule written somewhere that commands each home invasion movie to feature the home invaders wearing some kind of goofy-sweet co-ordinated masks. The animal masks worn in this one represent no clear violations of this rule on the part of You’re Next.  

Barbara Crampton was also a crafty choice to lend horror credibility to the ambiance. She has always given her all, even in some of the more outlandish premises, like her Stuart Gordon genre masterpieces (From Beyond and Re-Animator).

The movie tips its hat a little too early on a couple of the twistier parts but the reveal moments are executed with a gusto and flair that makes them a joy to behold. Everything, from script to editing, felt tight. This is a well crafted bit of horror machinery and will hold up well to repeat viewings.



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