You're Next (2013)
Dir. Adam Wingard
4 out of 5
For a good portion of the breezy new horror flick You’re Next, the biggest threat to domestic tranquility seems to be lurking within the film’s only location, a cavernous country mansion, not just from one of the masked home invaders who’s managed to stow away inside the house, but from the emotional games played by the warring siblings (and significant others) of an affluent Middle American clan. Their petty rivalries snap into focus as the Davison family gathers at their tranquil estate for a big family get-together that, for reasons kept secret until the movie’s third act, devolves into murderous chaos at the hands of several masked home invaders.
There’s parents Paul (Rob Moran) and Aubrey (Barbara Crampton), who have retired comfortably after Paul's long career in the defense industry. Eldest son Drake (mumblecore icon Joe Swanberg), a douchey charmer with a prickly wife (Margaret Laney), still gets his kicks by bullying his bookish brother Crispian (A.J. Bowen), now a college professor who’s shacked up with Erin (Sharni Vinson), a fetching former student. And it turns out to be quite the weekend for introductions: their bubbly sister Aimee (UpstreamColor’s Amy Seimetz) shows up with her new boyfriend, filmmaker Tariq (horror wunderkind Ti West), and baby brother Felix (Nicholas Tucci) brings his latest squeeze, a wan hipster-goth girl named Zee (Wendy Glenn).
Does that sound like a lot of characters? Don’t worry, not all of them will make it to the end. Taking a page from last year’s The Cabin in the Woods, director Adam Wingard uses the familiar tropes of an overexposed horror subgenre – the home invasion thriller – to comment on the manipulative methods necessary to tell an effectively frightening story. The fun is in the deception. Wingard has a blast at playing a gruesome version of Clue, forcing the audience to guess along with the characters as to who will soon join the rapidly mounting body count (and who is ultimately responsible for all those corpses).
And all that family feuding? It’s critical to setting up the big payoffs of You’re Next’s latter half, which admittedly follows the exhausting, bloody beats of a typical horror finale. But this time, the perspective has shifted to one of the movie’s “outsider” characters, a person whose development from sideline distraction to rooting interest is impeccably executed. It’s too bad that this one seems to be slipping by unnoticed: a rousing, inventive, and fiercely efficient film, You’re Next is a clever antidote to the brainless studio bloodbaths with twice the promotional budget.