You’re Next has been a long time coming. Impressing festival audiences around the country, horror fans were eager to sup on the latest offering of grue from director Adam Wingard. Well, it’s finally here, and I can say with absolute certainty that it is worth your time and money.
Plotwise, You’re Next has much in common with one of my favorite films of last year, The Aggression Scale, in which two teenagers with unusual survival skills fight off a group of armed intruders. The film has a very different tone, however and is entirely its own film. The story centers around a family of boorish, bratty, backstabbing, passive-aggressive assholes with lots of money who gather at Mom and Dad’s for their 35th wedding anniversary. Much cattiness and prickishness ensues among siblings and their significant others until a sudden act of shocking violence forces the family into defense mode. You won’t feel sorry for them in the slightest.
Not only are they assholes, but they are completely helpless and utterly useless human beings who can do almost nothing to protect themselves. They cower like a frightened herd of sheep and take directions from Erin, girlfriend of family member Crispian and the only one with any sense throughout the whole film. These intruders are terrifying and kill mercilessly, but Erin has a trick up her sleeve: she was raised on a survival compound and knows a thing or two about self-defense. A plot twist halfway through makes the whole affair even more perverse, and never will you shriek with as much glee at brutal murder as Erin slices, dices and pulpifies her attackers into something resembling meatloaf covered in tomato paste.
Sounds intense, right? Well, it is, except it has a streak of black humor a mile wide running through the entire film like a giant skewer. Audiences prepared for another take on The Strangers will find themselves laughing and cheering as this cast of thoroughly hideous people are decimated. There is very little moral ambiguity in the film; you will hate these people so much you will want to climb through the screen and off them yourself. This works in the film’s favor, because you can laugh along with it without feeling uneasy. Despite the humor, the scares work. Boy, do they work. The feeling of being terrified and immediately bursting out laughing, one emotion overlapping the other, is a very odd feeling, and kind of exhilarating. This type of comedy within a horror film is rarely done these days, because it’s so difficult to get just right. Here, they nail it, pun intended.
Speaking of nails, and axes, and crossbows, this is a very violent film. It may set a record for shattering glass, and the kills are brutal, but Wingard wisely chooses not to linger on the mayhem for too long, which would kill much of the humor. There’s a wonderfully-crafted scene, lit only by repeated camera flashes, where you are shown just enough to know how thoroughly mangled a victim has become, but not enough to get a clear sight. This film is tightly-controlled by its director and feels like it. He is completely at the helm and knows exactly where he wants to go.
This is also a film that ends on a high note. So many otherwise great films these days bungle their endings and wind up with a wet rag of a conclusion. This one feels right and doesn’t try to dazzle with a last-second mindfuck. It doesn’t need it. This is a film made to entertain, to scare, and to delight with its darkly hilarious grotesqueries.
And audiences seem to get it. I wasn’t sure if the audience I was in would get the odd tone of the film and understand that they were supposed to laugh and that it was okay to do so, but they quickly got the hang of the film’s style and had a ball watching it. It’s a very fun and exceptionally well-crafted movie by a director who keeps getting better as he goes along. This should be Adam Wingard’s much-deserved breakthrough film – one that will gain him the wide recognition he so deserves. My hat is off to him.