The Review: 'You're Next' Thrills and Scares

The Review: 'You're Next' Thrills and Scares

Aug 23, 2013

Go see You're Next.

I wish that could be my entire review. I really don't want to tell you anything about it. I just want you to go. I plan to see it again if only to experience it from the position of knowing how a live audience will react to the mounting mayhem, plot craziness and inventive... uh... yeah, I can't say.

It's a home-invasion horror film in which a large family is terrorized for initially unknown reasons by an equally unknown number of animal-masked assailants. And that is every bit of plot detail I’m going to divulge. But what you should know is where it comes from, because that matters. From director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett (who collaborated earlier on A Horrible Way to Die) and featuring cast members Joe Swanberg ("mumblecore" director of Drinking Buddies), Ti West (director of the great '80s-inspired Satanic-panic indie The House of the Devil) and Amy Seimetz (director of Sun Don't Shine and star of Upstream Color), it's as close as it gets to a statement of collective purpose from a thoroughly interconnected crew of creative people looking to put their own distinctive stamp on horror.

Bearing all the marks of a "new wave" -- and if you hesitate to call it that then it's at least a strongly identifiable next remix -- it gathers up loose strands of concurrent horror and art house ideas, fusing them into its own organism. It dispenses with played-out mechanics and overly serious tone, ignores the tactics of heavy-doom franchises like Saw and Hostel, moves low-budget narrative out of the creatively stalled found-footage genre and back into the realm of the nonsurveillance camera and appropriates the lighter, offhand, casual, human approach to indie film staked out by Swanberg and people like Andrew Bujalski (Computer Chess). The characters here are people before they're horror types. The fictional family's dynamics remain constant and inform all the action, their real human disorientation affecting their decisions and their fate, right down to the archetypal decision of entering vs. avoiding the basement. The sporadic funny moments have their birth not in a winking, Scream-style snarkiness but in more intimate interpersonal tension; it's people first, jokes second here and only when it's called for.

Best, it steals from very cool old stuff in the way filmmakers of the French New Wave took American genre films and pushed their ideas into fresh directions. We get a Halloween-inspired score, the first Friday the 13th's approach to visually surprising death scenes, I Spit on Your Grave's ugly fight-back power and the entire slasher genre's "Final Girl" trope broken into pieces and used to stab less nervy films in the neck, Home Alone style. And in casting Barbara Crampton (Chopping Mall, Re-Animator) as the clan matriarch, what could have been just an inside-baseball stunt becomes a step forward, a respectful and playful nod to the '80s and its influential moves. The bottom line: this clever gut punch is the most important horror film of the year so far. Just go.


Categories: Reviews
Tags: You're Next
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