Movie Review: You’re Next

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During a family reunion, a country house is invaded by violent masked intruders.

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Adam Wingard, 2011

For their wedding anniversary, the parents of the estranged Davison family invite their children to join them at their country home. Joining them for the family reunion is their professor son Crispian (seriously) (AJ Bowen), who brings along his girlfriend and former student Erin (Sharni Vinson). When they arrive, his mother Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) is in tears, thinking there was someone in the house. They dismiss her concerns as Crispian’s siblings arrive, and the family begins the awkward process of getting used to each other once again. Crispian is bullied by his athletic older brother Drake (Joe Swanberg), while Erin’s earthy nature is mocked by Drake’s wife. During a particularly fraught dinner with the Davisons and their four children, arrows shattering the windows create a whole new kind of tension. Faced with unimaginable violence, the family tries to cope with the home invasion. However, their attackers are faced with more than they bargained for in the resourceful Erin.

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I heard a lot of good buzz around You’re Next. Horror films are always interesting places to find up and coming talent behind the camera, since they can often be made very effectively for a small budget. They’re a level playing field for new directors to show their worth. You’re Next was made for only $1 million. Part of the “mumblegore” movement, it stars relatively unknown actors having naturalistic conversations in order to bring the fear home to the audience. It uses its limited location very effectively, creating a sense of claustrophobia for the characters while maintaining the pace (though one character’s early escape from the house does cause a break in the disbelief). It’s nicely shot, and the creepy animal masks add an unnerving quality to the proceedings. In fact, I think the actors behind the masks put in some of the best performances – for most of the movie they were only using their imposing physicality, and they created distinct characters for the three invaders. Sharni Vinson also acquits herself nicely, and gets to use her natural Australian accent, which was a relief to me.

The rest of the actors in the film aren’t quite as effective. AJ Bowen’s Crispian is particularly ineffective – we’re essentially introduced to him as our protagonist, but he never really makes an impression. The rest of the siblings and their significant others are all one-note caricatures, though Swanberg’s unbearable Drake gets a little better as the action heats up. The movie also suffers from introducing its home invasion too early. Letting us settle with the characters and get to know them better might have made the invasion itself more emotionally effective. Instead, characters we don’t care about at all are killed willy-nilly in extraordinarily violent ways. Some of these are inventive, others less so. The movie has a few moments of nice dark humour that could have been fun with better actors. The plot is actually pretty predictable, a kind of Final Girl version of Home Alone, and even the twist at the end isn’t very twisty. Still, it’s an atmospheric, entertaining horror flick worth checking out.

You’re Next on IMDb

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