You’re Next is a film I have been eagerly anticipating since it’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in 2011. That September it was picked up by Lionsgate Films and shown at Fantastic Fest then shelved until such a time as they felt they should release it. For diehard horror fans that wait was made only more agonizing by the studio’s decision to announce last year that they would release it at the end of the 2013 summer blockbuster season. By all rights holding on to a film that long should only serve to destroy its reputation among the horror fandom but because the majority of those lucky enough to get a glimpse of the film at its North American festival screenings did nothing but rave, it only served to heighten the anticipation. Now that the film is near release it has finally begun to screen for press and general audiences and the studio is gathering as much intel as they can. Is You’re Next just another home invasion thriller? Or does it manage to do something new and completely change a genre like Cabin in the Woods?
Horror films are in an intriguing place right now. Over the last few years there have been endless remakes of classics as we escape from the clutches of torture flicks and we’ve come out the other side a more demanding audience. We have seen parody after parody, derivation after derivation and it seems that we may be on the verge of a shift back to original intellectual properties. That won’t stop things like a fifth Paranormal Activity or a remake of Jaws from being made (as is the current vogue internet rumor right now) but it means that, at least in the horror genre, some new ideas are getting a chance. You’re Next seems to hit a sweet spot because if marketed correctly it appears to be a home invasion knockoff by way of The Strangers but when actually seen by an audience you realize how few similarities it actually shares with that film. It’s premise is simple. A family gathers together at their estate home in the country for a celebration of their parent’s 35th wedding anniversary. There are the parents, three sons and a daughter; as well as each of their significant others. The first to arrive, the evening before the dinner celebration, are son Crispian (AJ Bowen – The House of the Devil, The Signal) and his girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson – Step Up 3D, Bait). The next morning they are joined by older brother Drake (Joe Swanberg – VHS and Drinking Buddies) and his wife. The final four to arrive are son Felix (Nicholas Tucci – Undocumented, Choose) and his girlfriend Zee (Wendy Glenn – 11.11.11, Nip/Tuck) along with daughter Aimee (Amy Seimetz – The Killing, Bitter Feast) and her boyfriend Tariq (Ti West – The House of the Devil, The ABCs of Death) They soon learn that they are not alone and being hunted.
Once the slaughter begins the film doesn’t just go along with the traditional through line. The audience is never allowed to get comfortable as things shift to keep those watching as off balance as possible. Instead of dizzying the audience or making the changes happen without preamble the filmmakers use the traditional horror movie lull to not just signal that death is coming but also a major plot twist. Director Adam Wingard (VHS, The ABCs of Death) doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel but he has a flair for shooting horror movie deaths. There are a few cheap scares but they are more than made up for by the script of Simon Barrett (VHS, The ABCs of Death). Barrett’s screenplay is smart, fun and well paced so when combined with the work of his frequent collaborator Wingard they create a high quality flick that will have audiences jumping out of their seats and screaming their heads off.
I saw the film with an audience that was a mix of studio execs, press and the general public… This mix provided an opportunity to see how an opening weekend audience might react to this film and if its anything like my screening they will not be able to help themselves from engaging with the film both emotionally and vocally. While exiting the screening many people were saying that they couldn’t believe how much they yelled at the screen, as if it almost escaped them without their control.
Full of quality scares, genuinely funny moments and an intriguing plot, You’re Next manages to do what a film like The Purge could not earlier this year. You’re Next understands that it requires more than a fun idea to reinvent a genre as dense as the home invasion horror film. The Purge attempted to skate purely on intriguing premise. You’re Next goes the whole way and deserves to be treated as a standout modern horror film.