During the Davison family reunion to mark the 35th wedding anniversary of parents Aubrey and Paul (Barbara Crampton and Rob Moran), men wearing animal masks and equipped with guns, crossbows and axes invade their mansion home and begin brutally preying on the hapless guests, including the couple’s four children and respective partners. Erin (Sharni Vinson), the girlfriend of son Crispian (AJ Bowen), fronts their retaliation, revealing she is the best equipped to protect the rest of the family against their sadistic, unrelenting foes. Amongst a vocal and entertained crowd, this reviewer did not get a kick out this home invasion slasher. What struck me throughout about You’re Next and severely influenced my enjoyment was the senselessness of the brutality. There was something excessively nasty about it. Some of the characters that meet their demise early are killed off in horrific fashion, and yet there is no evident justification. Rather than be entertained by this – I mean, on ‘most’ occasions watching people be killed on screen isn’t fun, but for some reason this expects an audience to find it so – I was actually sickened and felt uneasy.
By conveying that this family are a group of rich yuppies, an increasingly dysfunctional and unlikable bunch who squabble not only at the dinner table but even when they have just lost a sibling and aren’t sure what to do next, are we meant to feel like they get what they deserve? Are we meant to side with their attackers, a group of military-attired professionals who take no mercy? This is a tough position to place the audience in. Maybe the idea is just to throw mayhem at the audience, reliant on the family satire to generate laughs, and the inventive kills to ease their bloodlust.
When Vinson, surprisingly capable of dishing out her own brand of punishment on her attackers, You’re Next becomes a lot more ‘fun’. Her admirable empowerment and the fact that some of the characters finally start to get what they deserve, means that we have a character to invest in and cheer for. The whole scheme, which is essentially a case of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ as Fargo’s Carl Showalter would say, is ridiculous too. The film’s twist is a surprise, admittedly, but even when the whole premise is explained and a peculiar plot hole is filled in, it remained unsatisfying.
Despite a myriad of inconsistencies, director Adam Wingard creates genuine scares, and he develops some top-notch tension. The less obtrusive techniques – reflections in glass, creaking doors etc. – are very effective. Erin’s synth score theme was a masterstroke. Former Aussie soap star, Vinson, is a flawless and memorable horror heroine, but it is a shame that the desire to entertain an audience is lined with so much nastiness.
[rating=2] and a half
Andrew Buckle - follow Andy on Twitter here: @buckle22
Andy Buckle is a passionate Sydney-based film enthusiast and reviewer who has built a respected online voice at his personal blog, The Film Emporium. Andy will contribute reviews, features and be our resident film festival, and awards expert.