Oh, well that’s nice. They spelled out the title for the audience. Next at what I wonder?

Theatrical Release Date: 08/23/2013
Director: Adam Wingard
Cast: Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Margaret Laney, Amy Seimetz, Ti West, Rob Moran, Barbara Crampton, L.C. Holt, Simon Barrett, Lane Hughes
Rated: R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity.
Runtime: 1 hour, 35 minutes


He looks partied out!

I am getting a little tired of this trend of home-invasion movies where the villains wear creepy masks. We saw it first in The Strangers and again in this summer’s The Purge. Why does every blood-thirsty gang of murderers have to look like an animal or a china doll? Where do they order those? Etsy? Whatever happened to the old-fashioned ski mask?

You’re Next begins with a brief foreshadowing of the horror to come, then quickly cuts to grad-student Erin (played by Step Up 3D actress and dancer, Sharni Vinson) and her hipster professor boyfriend (AJ Bowen) driving out to a remote country home to spend the weekend with his successful family and celebrate Mom and Dad’s 35th anniversary. All the grown kids (which include independent film actors and auteurs Joe Swanberg and Amy Seimetz) bring their significant others and they settle down to dinner and conversation that seems like it belongs in some coming-of-age film rather than a horror film. As they bicker across the table, an arrow flies through the window and the first body hits the floor.

You’re Next moves from murder to murder at a pretty brisk pace, despite the characters finding time to exchange snarky comments and add a little intended levity to the mix. There’s a lot of inadvertent levity in there as well, with almost every character being so irritatingly inept and obnoxious that you can help but feel amused as they suffer. Erin is the exception and she immediately establishes herself as the only person in the house with anything resembling survival instinct as the rest of the household freaks out. She is the only one using her melon, coming up with novel plans like “lock the windows” and “find something to defend yourself with,” as character after character makes a bad decision and is brutally killed as a result.

She also happens to be a ferocious adversary the pack of assailants weren’t expecting and she manages to hold her own against them by improvising booby traps and bludgeoning anyone who tries to corner her. You’re Next has a Scream-like twist about half-way through that the audience is privy to and our heroine isn’t which ratchets up the tension a bit as we wait for the axe to fall (which, I may add, is a clever turn of phrase you’ll appreciate more after you’ve seen the film). Unlike its mask-clad predecessors, these home-invaders have a motive and we don’t have to wait forever to find out what it is. It’s a refreshing change of pace for a plot of this sort.

The satisfaction I derived from the plot tension was dampened by the shaky-cam overload afflicting You’re Next. I’m usually pretty steady during these types of shots, but there were moments I had to turn away, not from the carnage but from the trembling camera work. The film works more effectively when the camera is still and we are anticipating the payoffs of Erin’s ingenuity.

You’re Next has a fair amount of buzz surrounding it and the gratifying ending should be enough to propel it into some decent box office returns. You’ll be scared throughout and have a lot of laughs while watching this, but it isn’t the horror film of the summer it may have hoped to be. And although I didn’t see too many comedies this summer, I’d like to nominate You’re Next for comedy film of the summer and I’ll toss a nomination for scream queen of the summer to Sharni Vinson (though, now that I think of it, she doesn’t actually do much screaming…). Overall, however, this isn’t quite good enough for me to say, ‘Yes! Get to the movie theater and pay a small fortune to see this film.’ I think that you should instead say, ‘Yes! Watch this movie on cable or Netflix when you get around to it.’

2.5 out of 5