Just when you think you've seen everything the home invasion subgenre has to offer, here comes You're Next, the latest from accomplished indie filmmaker Adam Wingard. The film recently screened at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival and was by far the most fun I had with a movie while in Austin.
It's been a while since we've seen such an inventive take on this well-traversed storytelling terrain, but screenwriter Simon Barrett injects the story with his trademark darkly comedic spin. The results are a highly entertaining horror flick that's as funny as it is a visceral gut-punch of a thriller.
You're Next starts off familiarly enough; we meet Crispian (AJ Bowen) who's bringing his girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson) up to his family estate to meet his parents and siblings during a weekend reunion. Of course, the reunion doesn't go according to plan. Things start off awkwardly between the siblings who all banter back and forth (sometimes the sarcasm is delightfully wicked), and try to outdo one another. Their doting parents do their best to keep the peace, but it's during dinner when things come to a boil. The bickering family soon realizes that they're under attack by a trio of masked killers who are hellbent on leaving no survivors at this reunion, quickly putting all those familial issues on the backburner.
While You're Next sounds like your typical home invasion story, it's really anything but typical. Screenwriter Simon Barrett masterfully blends horror and pitch black comedy throughout his story, and continuously finds clever ways to subvert the typical cat and mouse games we're used to seeing in these types of projects. The threats Barrett poises for these characters are very real and very deadly. He ups the ante a bit for some truly creative kills (One in particular will have you seeing your blender in an entirely new light) that are crowd-pleasing moments, reminiscent of the energy you'd see in some of the kills from the Friday the 13th sequels back in the day.
The entire ensemble of You're Next are absolutely fantastic across the board, tackling the physicality and the frequent tonal shifts of the material like total pros. There's one cast member in particular who truly shines in the film as they emerge as the hero of the story, but as I don't want to give too much away. Suffice it to say, old school horror fans will completely dig on Wingard's contemporary spin on the classic home invasion genre tropes.
For fans that have been following Wingard and Barrett's career together, You're Next is by far the duo's crowning achievement in their already stellar history of collaborations that include A Horrible Way to Die, V/H/S and The ABCs of Death. If You're Next is any indication of what the future holds for these guys, I cannot wait to see where they go from here. While the film may not have necessarily reinvented the proverbial horror wheel, the infectious energy they've infused into You're Next has been something sorely lacking in the genre world.
You're Next is best enjoyed in a packed theater filled with enthusiastic fans, so I absolutely recommend seeing it when it on the big screen. It's rare to see this kind of energy in what could have been a paint-by-numbers affair, but both writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard have once again raised the bar for their generation of filmmakers by creating a truly unforgettable and instantaneous classic. Between this and Evil Dead, it's great to see fun R-rated horror films making their way back into theaters again. Do NOT miss this one when it comes out in August.
Film Score: 4/5