We’ve all been there – you’re at home by yourself, watching TV or making yourself a snack when, all of a sudden, you hear a sound from across the house. You don’t know what it is but at the same time, you don’t want to know. It’s that unsettling feeling of fear that, even in your own home, you’re vulnerable. This is exactly the sort of predicament the characters of Adam Wingard’s “You’re Next” find themselves in, and while this film does seem like a re-hash of the elements of previous ‘home invasion’ films such as “Straw Dogs” and “Panic Room,” Wingard’s film contains enough bite to separate itself from the realm of mediocrity the horror genre commonly finds itself in but not nearly enough as it should to truly be one-of-a-kind.
Just a Perfect Weekend…
The film centers around the Davison family who have decided to retreat to an old, isolated house in the countryside for a family reunion. Everything seems to be going well for the family, despite the drama between brothers Crispian (A.J. Bowen) and Drake (Joe Swanberg) and certain other familial animosities – until things take a horrific turn for the worse. A trio of masked killers begin assaulting the house and hunting the family and it is not long before Crispian’s timid girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson) takes up the role of protector and decides to bring the fight to the killers in a fierce display of blood and brutality.
Familiar Feel, Different Execution
On the surface, “You’re Next” feels like any other ‘they’re-in-the-house’-type horror film but what sets it apart from the rest is the fact that while everyone is scrambling about in a fear-induced panic, one character decides to show the aggressors that they attacked the wrong house. We’re so used to seeing the victims in these types of films portrayed as help- and powerless targets that we never really see them take the fight to their attackers. Sharni Vinson as Erin was my favourite character out of everyone in the film. She has a gentle and humble aura about her when she is first introduced but when the killers attack, she immediately switches gears and commands everyone on what they should do if they want to stay alive – even her boyfriend is gobsmacked by her behaviour, expecting her to cower and cry much like most of the other women.
Erin’s ability to successfully rout the killers and hunt them time and again is the film’s most empowering symbol of feminine superiority and it really breaks the whole damsel-in-distress image we’ve come to expect from females in horror films. Vinson’s performance evoked many memories in me of Sigourney Weaver’s character of Ripley in the “Alien” films. My favourite scene to showcase Erin’s murderous prowess was a scene in which she, armed with only a digital camera, ambushes one of the killers and just to see this scene play out was one of the film’s most suspenseful moments.
A Rather Lifeless Cast
Yet while Erin is certainly the film’s cornerstone, her supporting cast don’t do much to complement her. Some of their acting is so cringe-worthy in certain parts that it almost becomes unbearable. I did, however, think that Joe Swanberg as Drake was a decent character as he was an ignorant and sarcastic person and his actions really evoked much loathing in me. The killers themselves are basically what you would expect: reserved, dangerous and violent – nothing else to see here. The film also has some odd dark humour that really felt out of place in certain scenes and there is one scene in particular that seemed so weird and outlandish that I wondered why it wasn’t cut. There’s also a twist halfway through the film that might catch you by surprise but, it makes enough sense to work within the film’s narrative and add another level of suspense. Then, later, there’s another twist that seemed so ham-fisted that I could scarcely take it seriously; it was pretty bad.
“You’re Next” is not a bad horror film. It can be easily grouped together with the rest of its ‘home invasion’ genre counterparts but it contains just enough originality to clearly stand out. The film has a terrific, unsettling soundtrack and even though the cinematography is a little too shaky at times, it has a way of making you feel as if you’re in the thick of all the action. While the first two acts are basically by-the-numbers, the third act amps everything up to 11 in a gory, satisfying finale. With the summer movie season so close to an end, if you’re looking for one more fright-fest, “You’re Next” should be next on your list.