By Gary Murray
Starring Sharni Vinson, Joe Swanberg and AJ Bowen
Written by Simon Barrett
Directed by Adam Wingard
Running time 95 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating Matinee
The horror film has changed over and over again since the silent German Expressionism of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and the work of the French cinema icon Georges Melies. We’ve gone from Universal Monsters to giant Toho beasts to the Devil possessing souls. In 1974, the genre was turned over yet again when Tobe Hooper released The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
This movie started the killer in the woods genre that obsessed low-budget film makers for over a decade. It was the kind of films that Drive-in Critic Joe Bob Briggs would champion. Today, most of those types of films have become CGI gore-fests such as the remake of Evil Dead or The Cabin in the Woods. Director Adam Wingard has gone back to the low budget roots and re-invented the genre with You’re Next.
The film opens with a sex scene and two murders. Someone or something is in the woods and killing. The CD in the house runs on repeat and the music plays on and on. On the wall, painted in blood is ‘You’re next.”
Then we get to the main story. The Davison family owns a place in the woods, a giant fixer-up two story giant home. Crispin (AJ Brown) is bringing his Australian girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson) to meet the family. He is a college professor and she is a former student. They are young and in love.
The Davison clan consisted of four kids, three sons and a daughter. Everyone has either a date or a spouse visiting the home. So, we have ten people (aka victims) in the manor. As the family sits down to dinner, the young filmmaker boyfriend notices something going on outside. As he walks toward the glass window, a crossbow arrow splits the pane and impales between the eyes. Another arrow follows.
The family is attacked by a group in the woods. The killers are wearing masks, a fox, a wolf and a sheep. he plastic coverings give a surreal, other world feel to the massacre. They are killing it seems for the sake of killing.
Within moments, Erin takes over for the family. She lets everyone eventually know that she has certain skills of survival that the others lack. Erin knows how to fight and how to fight back. She also realizes that one of the killers is in the house.
The film eventually becomes a Home Alone scenario where Erin begins to build traps to stop the massacre. Eventually, we learn that not everyone in the home is to be a victim and that everything is not exactly what it seems.
You’re Next revels in its low budget. Director Adam Wingard delivers all the scares and gallows humor without relying on computer tricks. He brings us into his macabre world and toys with the audience like an alley cat with a mouse. With a solid script by Simon Barrett, Wingard takes on all the precepts of the old genre and gives it a fresh coat of paint. It is simple filmmaking at its finest.
The cast is basically fodder for killing but there are two standouts. Sharni Vinson brings her best Sarah Conner from Terminator 2 and kicks some para-militaristic butt. She is the Alpha female of the story, our warrior princess in a modern era. Even when the final reel unwinds, she keeps her inner cool. The other standout from the wasteland of body parts is Wendy Glenn as Zee. She has a smoldering look, giving away her ending agenda but still finds moments to shine.
This film is not for everyone but for the specific horror audience. It has all the spooks and scares that audience craves and will do well with those obsessed by the genre. To sum it up in Joe Bob terms: three beasts, three breasts and ten gallons of blood. Arrow in the head, arrow in the back and slit throats. Check it out!