All words: Ross Bonaime
At the end of a summer that has been filled with an overwhelming amount of special effects, lack of character and plenty of disappointments, one of the most fun summer films of 2013 is as simple as getting a bunch of indie directors and actors together in a old house and watching them die off one by one.
Of course its not as simple as that in You’re Next, which plays like a combination of Scream’s self-awareness, the contained brutality of Straw Dogs, and the home invasion fear of The Strangers. You’re Next has four siblings reuniting with their significant others in tow at their parents house for their 35th wedding anniversary. Unbeknownst to the family, their neighbors have been murdered and they’re the next victims.
The family clearly has some unresolved conflicts between brothers and sister, but they quickly unite as arrows fly into the anniversary dinner, leaving loved ones dead and the family trying to get themselves to safety.
Those expecting something akin to this summer’s other invasion horror film, The Purge, may be surprised by the amount of humor and parody that is going on in You’re Next. Having Tariq (The Innkeepers director Ti West) explain to Drake (Drinking Buddies director Joe Swanberg) an underground film festival has many layers to it, especially if you know who these filmmakers are.
You’re Next even toys around with the ideas that are usually shouted at screens during similar horror films, such as why the people don’t just leave the house or even how ridiculous it can seem to have one victim really good at killing. While there is a plenty of gruesome killing going on, You’re Next nails its blend of humor and fear, almost like a more grounded The Cabin in the Woods.
The terror of the film is also handled incredibly well, especially for a film of this type. So often in horror films, you have a vague idea where the killer is, making the threat something that could come out of nowhere. Yet You’re Next is great at setting up where every character is at any moment in the story. Letting the audience in on where the heroes and villains are at almost all times gives us the advantage and also maximizes the anticipation.
Even in the final third of the film, when twists are revealed that seem pretty obvious, You’re Next handles it in a thoroughly enjoyable way, taking itself seriously as a horror film, while still having fun with horror tropes, which is why it sort of works as a parody of the genre. Much of this success is thanks to director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett, who have created some of the more interesting segments of horror anthologies like V/H/S and The ABCs of Death. The two build a tension that constantly builds, while also throwing in moments of levity that balance the two predominant emotions of the film.
You’re Next is one of the very few horror comedies that works by not going too over the top with the humor, while still creating terror at times, and making one of the most enjoyable film going experiences of the summer.