You’re Next (2011)
“They will hunt you”
Director: Adam Wingard
Cast: Sharni Vinson, Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen
Synopsis: When the Davison family comes under attack during their wedding anniversary getaway, the gang of mysterious killers soon learns that one of victims harbors a secret talent for fighting back.
WARNING! This review contains SPOILERS!
After premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011, Adam Wingard’s so-called ‘mumblegore’ flick You’re Next gathered dust on some forgotten shelf at Lionsgate before finally being released in 2013. Quite why Lionsgate waited so long is a mystery. Perhaps they felt it wasn’t as strong as they originally thought and puzzled over how to market the thing. Maybe they were waiting for Wingard’s reputation to grow. Or could it be that they just couldn’t work up the enthusiasm? Either way, there can be little doubt that even they must have been surprised by the inexplicable number of positive reviews this immensely stupid and irritating film received.
The plot, such as it is, revolves around a family get-together organised by wealthy retired defence contractor, Paul (Rob Moran) and his wife, Aubrey (horror icon Barbara Crampton) to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Paul and Aubrey live in a rambling mansion which, apart from a nearby neighbour, is relatively secluded. They’re hoping for a happy, peaceful get-together with their grown-up kids, but a prologue in which we see Paul and Aubrey’s neighbours hacked to death by a mask-wearing intruder dressed in black suggests they’re going to be disappointed. Even if the family reunion hadn’t been disrupted by one of the guests (Ti West, a director buddy of Wingard’s) receiving a crossbow to the forehead, it would have deteriorated into a remonstrative free-for-all between oldest brothers Crispian (A. J. Bowen), an under-achieving professor, and his high-flying brother, Drake (Joe Swanberg). Other than these two and Crispian’s former student turned girlfriend, Erin (Sharni Vinson) who, critically, grew up on a survivalist compound in the Australian outback, there is next to no character development in You’re Next, and even both Crispian and Drake are defined only by their enmity towards one another.
Anyway, initially these resentments are played out against a background of mounting terror as crossbows from unseen assassins outside of the house zip through the room in which the family cowers. Everyone YELLS VERY LOUDLY at one another for an interminable length of time as cinematographer Andrew D. Palermo apparently bounces his camera about on the end of a bungee cord. That first crossbow to the head marks the beginning of a long night for the family which sees most of them losing their lives in a variety of ways. There’s a certain amount of originality to some of these murders — one, in particular, distinguishes itself by having the killer whining ‘don’t you realise how difficult this is for me?’ as he thrusts the last of a half-dozen screwdrivers into a victim who stubbornly refuses to breathe his last — but that never really makes up for all the things that are wrong about You’re Next.
First of all, everyone in the movie, with the exception of Erin, is wholly dislikeable, so kill them all — what do we care? Crispian comes across as an ineffectual loser (how he bagged a hot independently-minded Aussie chick like Erin is a complete mystery), Drake is a knob, and everyone else is too panic-stricken to arouse any kind of emotion in the audience other than intense annoyance at why they have to scream at one another so loudly in order to register just how panic-stricken they are. Secondly, anyone who has seen more than half a dozen movies will not only pick up on the fact that someone inside the house has to be in on the attack, but will in all likelihood identify the culprit within ten minutes of the attack happening. True, there’s a second family member involved whom nobody will guess — but that’s because they have hardly any screen time before being unmasked as a villain. Even worse than this, though, is the stupidity of almost everyone involved. Ok, so you might not be thinking at your best when someone’s invading the security of your home with murderous intent, but even the most clueless parent would raise at least a token objection to one of their offspring tearing off unarmed into the darkness in which they know at least one attacker lurks. And would anybody in real life be stupid enough to stare out from a lit room’s window into that same darkness? No, they wouldn’t. But everyone does in You’re Next, including the supposedly savvy Final Girl.
You’re Next also blunders by revealing the identity of one of those undercover killers far too early, which means everything that happens after the reveal is robbed of one of the few reasons we might have for continuing to watch it. The mystery is solved too soon, leaving us with stupid people dying stupid deaths because of their stupidity, a plucky heroine surviving thanks largely to Home Alone-style booby traps, and a restless audience impatiently waiting for that big final twist its known was coming for the last forty-five minutes.