One can make the argument that the home invasion thriller feels rather familiar in the wake of this particular genre’s omnipresence at the box office. With offerings such as this year’s ‘The Purge’ or even referencing something as nostalgic as the Jodie Foster-Kristen Stewart vehicle ‘Panic Room’ from a few years back you would wonder if indie filmmaker Adam Wingard’s ‘You’re Next’ would get lost in the shuffle. Well, if the old-fashioned grittiness and off-the-wall chill factor demonstrates a sense of distinctive decadence then clearly any haunting vehicle can make its mark in a field rich with slash-and-dash gumption.
Thankfully, Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett (‘A Horrible Way To Die’) arm ‘You’re Next’ with some notable eerie chops that register with effective forcefulness in titillating tone and pacing. The glossy presentation and horrifying hilarity contributes to the intense absurdity of the proceedings. As an indie-style horror slasher, ‘You’re Next’ does have a chilly charm that resonates more so than some of the bigger mainstream counterparts that wield more exaggerated creepiness. However, the slight knock on Wingard’s macabre showcase is that its sinister premise is rather conventional and never quite ventures beyond the confines of a low grade formulaic frightfest. Still, ‘You’re Next’ is refreshingly formidable when its creative energy and enthusiasm for the menacing material sneaks up on the audience despite revisiting some recycled and ribald ideas.
The slaughterhouse seediness takes place, of course, in a remote mansion in the middle of nowhere). The occupants are a well-to-do family headed up by recent retiree Paul Davidson (Rob Moran) and his emotionally touchy wife, Aubrey (Barbara Crampton, ‘Re-Animator’). The Davidsons are about to celebrate their 35th anniversary and what better way to acknowledge their union by inviting their wayward adult children and their families to join in the festivities.
The family get-together is marred by bickering and pettiness at the dinner table. Soon, the dysfunctional Davidson clan will be silenced when an errant crossbow bolt crashes through the kitchen window. Panic sets in for the family but Davidson son Crispian’s (AJ Bowen) resourcefully attractive Australian girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson) does not give in to the riff raffish pressure of the masked intruders (donning beastly-looking pig masks). Outsider Erin seems very crafty as a survivalist and assists the Davidsons in fending off the pesky villains with her handling of household appliances and her mental tactics to combat the intrusive criminals.
Instinctively, Wingard’s carefree direction gives ‘You’re Next’ an erratic forum to balance out the tawdry tension with doses of tongue-in-cheek tendencies to personalise the on-going torment with rousing ridiculousness. The mayhem is peppered with an unspeakable body count but the pronounced peril within ‘You’re Next’ is comically sealed in its horrific skin. Both Wingard and Barrett are playful when using this caustic cat-and-mouse caper as a means for its cynical look at adversity in the world of privileged haves and pathetic have nots.
Because we have seen countless times the overused jolting techniques for horror-filled home invasion suspense pieces ‘You’re Next’ occasionally sputters and lapses into copycat territory. But the amusing carnage of undesirables being hacked set against the atmospheric backdrop of indie-induced exuberance makes for an ambitious low-budget slasher flick steep in subversive giddiness.
Saturated with snappy dialogue, twisty plotting and wicked-minded wit, the sacrificial lambs in ‘You’re Next’ that display murderous masked menaces and their pristine prey are a welcomed relief to the corrosive crop of dice-and-slice cinema that currently bombard the indie horror scene. Here is an instance where constant jumpiness is the required reaction to this nifty nail-biting nightmare.
You’re Next (2013)
1 hr. 34 mins.
Starring: Shani Vinson, AJ Bowen, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, Margaret Laney and Joe Swanberg
Directed by: Adam Wingard
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: Horror/Mystery & Suspense/Drama
Critic’s rating: ** 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)
(c) Frank Ochieng 2013