Acquired by Lionsgate with hopes of becoming their next big franchise, Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett’s You’re Next cleaned up the horror awards at the Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. The home invasion slasher won “Best Picture,” “Best Director” (Wingard), “Best Screenplay” (Barrett) and “Best Actor” (Sharni Vinson). In the film a family comes under a terrifying and sadistic attack during a reunion getaway.
In addition to our first rave review out of TIFF, below you’ll find Brad McHargue’s thoughts on the film that he calls “one of the best theater-going experiences of the year.”
Last year writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard brought us A Horrible Way to Die, a tense, slow burn of a thriller splashed with a dash of the mumblecore aesthetic and containing one of AJ Bowen’s best performances since The Signal. Now, one year later, the filmmaking duo have returned with their answer to the home invasion thriller, the incredibly hilarious and insanely violent You’re Next.
You’re Next tells the unfortunate tale of the Davison family and what happens when a gang of masked intruders armed with crossbows interrupt their peaceful night. Gathering together at their parents’ mansion to celebrate their 35th anniversary, siblings Crispian, Felix, Drake, and Aimee, along with their significant others, settle in for an awkward dinner filled with all the sibling rivalry the family can muster. This, unfortunately, is interrupted by a gang of masked marauders brandishing crossbows and a burning desire to kill every single person in the house. Cripsian’s girlfriend Erin, a tiny yet ferocious Aussie, takes it upon herself to try and keep everyone safe.
You’re Next is a brilliant send-up of the “home invasion” sub-genre. Throughout the film every possible convention you can think of – cell phones not working, heading to the basement for safety, et al – is poked fun at through quick witted dialogue with just the right amount of subtlety to prevent it from straying into outright parody. It’s more straight horror than it is a parody a la Scream, but the subtle jabs at the genre are there. In addition, unlike many horror comedies that tend to move away from humor as the tension rises, the comedy in You’re Next is paced in a way that is remarkably even-handed, with random quips, humorous banter, and brilliant satire appearing exactly when needed.
Much of this is accomplished through the pitch perfect performances of almost everyone involved, particularly the trio of male siblings and our intrepid hero Erin. The former, played by AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg, and Nicholas Tucci, play off each other, hurling insults and engaging in witty banter anyone with a sibling can relate to; the latter, played by Sharni Vinson, kicks so much ass you’ll stand up in your seat and cheer. When looked at as a group, each character had a distinct personality that brought something wholly unique and, in most cases, just downright fun to the extended siege on the Davison house.
As their situation worsens, this gives way to pithy one-liners; several moments elicited gut-busting laughter from the audience, though this was quickly tempered by the amazing pacing and undeniably entertaining violence. There isn’t a single dull moment in the film, and when you’re not laughing, you’re cringing.
The direction of the film was spot on, though director Adam Wingard failed to learn from the mistakes he made in A Horrible Way to Die. There is absolutely no reason to shake the camera so much, especially during some of the more tense scenes. Thankfully, much of it tapered off as the film progressed or, in some instances, wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it could have been. Beyond this, the only real complaint comes from a seemingly irrelevant part of the film that is seemingly introduced to inform a later scene, despite it not working within the context of the film. It’s a minor quibble, but one that deserves a mention.
You’re Next is one of the best horror films of the year, and with its acquisition by Lionsgate, we can only hope that its release is successful. Don’t let its run-of-the-mill premise fool you – it has its tongue planted firmly in its cheek while maintaining a necessary sense of respect for the genre, and the end result is one of the best theater-going experiences of the year.