Amongst horror fans, Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard’s latest film “You’re Next” has come to MIFF with considerable hype. Those lucky enough to have already seen the film, think that it is fantastic and those that have not, are eagerly anticipating it. “You’re Next” takes place within the home invasion sub-genre which seems to always have an edge in being able to terrify an audience. Everyone feels their safest in the luxury and comfort of their own home and the fear of having this sanctuary invaded by strangers is a real palpable fear and one that I think everyone can understand and be scared of. Personally, I am a big fan of these home invasion horror films and think that some recent examples like “The Strangers”, “Inside” and “Kidnapped” are some of the best the genre has to offer. Because of this, yes, “You’re Next” was another film that I was greatly anticipating at MIFF; let’s hope this one delivers.
Coming together for their parent’s wedding anniversary, Crispian and his two brothers, Drake and Felix, return home with their significant others to celebrate this momentous achievement. It is the first time in a very long while that the entire family has been all together in one place, and what was supposed to be a night of celebration, soon turns into outright terror as the family is attacked by three masked intruders in their own home. The malicious and random attack on the family seems to have only one purpose: pleasure kills from the perpetrators who intend on leaving no-one alive, but what they didn’t count on was Erin, Crispian’s Australian girlfriend who grew up on a survivalist compound as a kid and who now gets the chance to display the skills she learnt to bring the fight back to the masked intruders.
Thank God! Praise the Lord! Finally a film that I was looking forward to has lived up to its hype. “You’re Next” is a fantastic and bloody horror film that at times is also very funny. I am not a big fan of comedy in my horror films, but the way it is dealt with here is so naturalistic and just rang true, as most of the comedy comes in the form of banter between the three brothers. Rest assured when the horror does kick in, it is handled very seriously; there is no winking at the audience, rather it is a bloody fight for survival. Bloody is the key word here too because “You’re Next” becomes quite a gory film full of inventive deaths including a brilliant gag involving razor wire in front of a door.
What makes the film so successful is Australian actress Sharni Vinson, who plays the resourceful and very dangerous Erin. She is just fantastic here and her physicality, courage and commitment to the role is second to none. Vinson performed all of her own stunts (except one) in “You’re Next” and the film benefits greatly from it. By witnessing the carnage with the main actress in the shot (and not via tricky editing to disguise the use of a double), you actually believe that this girl is capable of doing everything she does. It creates a realism that is usually lost when stunt doubles are relied upon too much. For mine, Sharni Vinson’s Erin is the strongest and most kick-ass female character I have seen in a film since Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” or Sigourney Weaver as the iconic Ripley in “Aliens”. She is that impressive and she also makes Erin into a real character as opposed to just being the clichéd final girl.
While I like Barrett and Wingard’s previous film “A Horrible Way To Die”, I hated the visual style of that film which was full of nauseous shaky cam that served no purpose to the film. Thankfully this visual approach has been abandoned for “You’re Next” and been replaced with a more traditional approach which benefits the film greatly. Thanks to cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo, the film looks amazing and I was significantly impressed with Wingard’s use of certain visual techniques in key moments of the film to add to its mood or atmosphere. His use of slow motion during a memorable axe attack was brilliant, making the pay off stand out that much better. It is obvious that Wingard is really growing as a director.
Much of the marketing for “You’re Next” has been based on the visage of the intruders, focusing heavily on the animal masks these men wear to conceal their identities. The animal masks themselves are fantastic (and terrifying) and soon to become iconic, synonymous with “You’re Next”, but their presence does remind of the similar home invasion film, “The Strangers”, from 2008. While it is undeniable that both films share a similar plot, fear not that “You’re Next” is a complete re-tread because without giving anything away, there are a couple of significant twists in “You’re Next” that make the film stand out from the pack.
So was there anything I disliked about “You’re Next”? Not really, the film is an enormously enjoyable thrill ride, but if I was pressed I would admit that I wasn’t as big a fan of the major twist as some have been. I felt that the film didn’t need it and it actually made the film more generic after its reveal. Also, the second twist that occurs right towards the end of the film was alluded too much too early in the film and thus ultimately came as no surprise. One gag I did love though was the “axe above the door” bit which is returned to and repeated a number of times and has a fantastic and funny pay off.
Overall, I was a big fan of “You’re Next” and particularly of Sharni Vinson performance within the film (it made it obvious just how wasted she was in “Patrick”). Thankfully, it lived up to the hype and was a brilliant horror film with a dark comedic edge to it. Besides, how can you hate a film that gives former “Scream Queen” Barbara Crampton a significant role in it? “You’re Next” is a very fun ride and an easy recommendation; horror fans should adore this film.