Sharni Vinson as Erin
AJ Bowen as Crispian
Joe Swanberg as Drake
Rob Moran as Paul
You’re Next begins with a group of masked assailants killing a couple of lovers. Their calling card – written in blood on the sliding glass door – is ‘you’re next’… The action immediately switches to Paul (Rob Moran) and Aubry Davison as they prepare to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary with their five (grown) children in a secluded mountain mansion. Their middle son, Crispian, surprises them by arriving early with his girlfriend, Erin. The next day they are joined by the eldest son – Drake, the youngest – Felix and sister – Amy – all accompanied by significant others. Not long after the ten of them sit down to a celebratory meal that evening, family bickering ensues as sibling rivalries rise above the level of playful sparing. Yet, just when tempers threaten to boil over, Amy’s boyfriend – Tariq – drops dead with an arrow in his head. Panic ensues when the remaining nine realize that the arrow came through the window. During the chaos several more are shot (none fatally) until they manage to make it into the foyer. Now in a standoff with the home invaders, the Davison family attempts to figure out how to escape the house without getting killed. Unfortunately, Erin seems to be the only one with the skills and knowledge to survive. Will she save herself and the remaining Davisons?
Graphic violence. High gore. Palpable tension. Dark comedy. This Indie flick (released through Lionsgate) has all the ingredients of a great horror movie and blends them seamlessly. When viewers are not on the edge of their seats, they will be laughing their asses off, as the Davisons are picked off one by one.
The storyline is somewhat predictable: A home invasion crew targets a rich family, only to discover that one of them is a little more than they can handle and may even blow the whole operation. Yet, there are enough character tweaks and situational twists inserted into this industry-standard structure to keep horror veterans guessing. Moreover, the very believable reactions of a dysfunctional family to a high-stress predicament makes You’re Next the most entertaining home invasion flick to date. Indeed, the action and dialogue, although meant to be darkly funny, pulls off the rare feat of situational and character appropriateness. The horror doesn’t flinch and neither does the humor – they are fused in a way reminiscent of An American Werewolf in London – and just as seamlessly cross the boundaries between laughter and fear in our minds. Like many well-executed stories, there is hidden knowledge of each character revealed bit by bit. Thus the purpose of their actions and dialogue are not always readily apparent, but this slow process of revelation makes the final sequence all the more satisfying. Not a single line appears to have been thrown in for the sake of a cheap laugh.
The acting is decent (especially for an Indy flick) with only a few characters stretching to sell their emotions. (Fortunately, they die early.) The gore is first rate – to include some very impressive kill scenes. The scares are well-executed and although some are slasher-typical, many are also refreshingly unexpected. The music at times is purposefully (or accidentally) cheesy and detracts from the otherwise seamless fusion of horror and comedy, but the action is so intense that viewers probably won’t notice it most of the time. Parts of the conclusion will be predictable to more seasoned horror fans and parts will be a welcome treat (especially the final kills). Yet even the predictable elements are satisfying due to the innovative way in which they unfold. And although the last couple seconds before the credits highlight the comedic element at the expense of the horror the story does not suffer.
Fun. Intense. Refreshing. Several contemporary horror classics began as the little-Indy-flicks-that-could. This one has the potential to breath the same rarefied air. The only question is whether it will be an immediate hit with horror fans, or a sleeper sensation on DVD … I’m betting on the former.