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You're Next Review: The Best Little Horror Movie You'll See This Year

By TK | Film Reviews | August 23, 2013 | Comments ()


I know it’s only August, but having seen the bulk of this year’s wide-release horror movies and knowing what the upcoming ones are, I’m going to go ahead and call it. You’re Next is the best pure horror movie you’ll see this year. It’s not the scariest movie you’ve ever seen, nor the creepiest or the goriest, but it so meticulously and cleverly assembles its parts that it creates a superbly satisfying horror experience.

It’s a great example of a film that takes a simple and not particularly original premise, and excels not in its idea, but in its execution. The tone is set right off the bat, starting with a shocking couple of murders that do a terrific job of not only giving the viewer a glimpse of what’s to come, but also quickly creating a sense of dread that pervades the film from the earliest frames. It quickly proceeds to its central narrative, concerning an obscenely wealthy, WASPy family getting together for the parents’ wedding anniversary. Director Adam Wingard, working off of frequent co-collaborator Simon Barrett’s script, does an excellent job of drawing out the critical characteristics of each family member through a brief, intense series of vignettes for each of them, giving just enough background and familial conflict to understand the curious family dynamics of this group of idly rich, utterly unprepared individuals.

And they are indeed unprepared, for during the anniversary dinner, in the midst of a heated argument, hell breaks loose. A flurry of crossbow bolts a fired from the darkness into the house, killing some, wounding others, and from there the film hits the ground running and never lets up for the remainder of its brisk 95 minutes. There are bad, bad men outside, and they are clearly there to kill everyone. What proceeds is a horrific cat-and-mouse chase throughout the family’s massive rural home, a chase filled with a combination of devious ingenuity and brutal slaughter. It’s delightfully, deviously effective because the family has neither a clue why it’s happening, nor the faintest idea what to do. The family is so utterly separated from the harsh realities of the world that they are practically running into each other, often to comic effect. Yet it’s done with such striking intensity that it never feels forced or even satirical, but rather simply a group of people with no earthly idea what is happening or how to respond.

The x-factors are some of the guests, notably the girlfriend of one son, Erin (Sharni Vinson, coming a hell of a long way from Step Up 3D) who is far more than she initially appears. Vinson quickly leaps over the conventional female horror protagonist into something far more deadly and enjoyable. Her character is a force of nature, lethally pragmatic and ruthlessly determined to survive, and she is a joy to watch from start to finish. It’s the type of female protagonist you don’t get nearly enough of in horror films, a smart, sensible, capable young woman who uses every tool available to fight her way through the obstacles. It’s not the archetype who screams her way through the first half before finding her inner strength and overcoming her fears — right from the get-go, Erin reacts with a cautious intelligence mixed with a steely determination.

The overall presentation of You’re Next is the key to its success. It deftly synthesizes all of its parts — a contrast between lovely external cinematography and tight, frantic indoor footage, minimalist and jarring music that doesn’t always signify what you think will happen, a deeply twisted and macabre sense of humor, and a group of genuinely chilling, often terrifying silent antagonists. Refreshingly, the film also completely eschews CGI or other fanciful effects, and is done entirely with practical, cleverly staged effects that seamlessly serve the story (instead of clumsily hacking a story out of the effects, as is often the case). It’s everything you could want out of a lower-budget, Spartanly shot horror film — it’s scary without being stupid, gory without being graphic, and with a story that’s just complex enough to be interesting, but doesn’t try to overdo it or try to outsmart the audience with too many curveballs. There are a couple of reveals, and you may well predict them, but they’re still done with such satisfying cleverness that it’s enjoyable nonetheless.

You’re Next is the rare little gem of a film. Wingard and Barrett have partnered often before, and they have a solid grasp of what makes a good horror movie, particularly in their excellent entries in the anthologies V/H/S and The ABC’s Of Death (wherein theirs are by far the best ones in both films). Here they’ve taken all their best elements — grounded realism, a gift for capturing human weakness and venality without making characters too absurd, and a terrific understanding of the role of humor within the horror narrative — and churned out a film that isn’t even remotely original, but is still startlingly enjoyable. It’s a harsh, savage, terrifying experience, one that doesn’t celebrate its violence as much as it artfully demonstrates how it can be used to effectively tell a story. Best of all, it still manages to be fun, in that perverse way that only a really good horror flick can be.

"Short Term 12" Review: A Marvel of Kindness and Warmth, an Early Contender for the Most Criminally Overlooked Film of 2013 | A Brilliant Tragic Comedy: Just Go See The World's End

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Pim

    Speak for yourself, I luuuurve Step Up 3 D in the way I love all dance movies and am psyched Sharni Vinson is going somewhere.

  • BlackRabbit

    Sadly, my first thought on seeing the header pic: "Why would you wear a mask to a deal like that? Cuts down on peripheral vision, gives you a distinctive silhouette, makes it hard to breathe, and means that you can't be 100% percent sure if the other guys in masks are who you think they are at any time." All that being said I'll likely go see it, provided no actual animals get hurt. Do they?

  • Walt Jr

    Did the previews remind anyone of "The Strangers" from 2008?

  • TripleKick

    I gotta say, "A Ride in the Park" and "Safe Haven" are my two favorite segments in the V/H/S series and they both came in the 2nd.

  • Meli_V

    The trailer makes me wildly uncomfortable with the suspense I know will come along with watching the film, so I was on the fence of not watching, but it looks like I'll have to endure.

  • Robert

    It's a crowd-pleaser, all right. Not my favorite horror of the year by any stretch of the imagination (that would be Resolution, which got bumped from a wide release to a one week and straight to VOD release after the distributors got cold feet), but serviceable for a home invasion fan. I probably would have liked it more if I didn't realize the twists a soon as everything fell apart at the family gathering. Lots of great ideas here that get pushed to the brink of insanity without actually toppling over.

  • tamatha_uhmelmahaye

    It's too bad I don't like horror films, because this review is so strong. TK you did such a great job of describing this movie without giving anything away. Excellent review.

  • I agree one hundred per cent with the above statement, with the exception that I love horror films.

  • Rooks

    Woah. So much praise in a review... we still are on Pajiba, though, yes? How weird, it totally makes me want to see this horror movie. I don't even like horror movies.

    Also, re:header pic: Anbu Black Ops are the villains in this flick, apparently.

  • snrp

    Okay, but the fucking trailer: "Don't bother locking the door--animals don't use doors." YES THEY DO! ANIMALS USE DOORS ALL THE TIME!

  • Bedewcrock

    ...and plot together!

  • Maguita NYC

    It has been a while since I've watched a horror film, but your review made me want to go see it.

    Also This: "...smart, sensible, capable young woman who uses every tool available to fight her way through the obstacles. It’s not the archetype who screams her way through..." It would be nice to watch a movie of the horror genre where the woman is not helpless from the get go. A woman who has lived, and is capable of reacting in extreme situations.

  • BendinIntheWind

    After seeing the trailer a few months ago, I thought this looked like a bummer of a "Strangers" rip-off. So excited to hear all the positive buzz and have another horror movie to be legitimately excited about!

  • Robert

    It's nothing like The Strangers. It's Funny Games by way of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon with a good sprinkling of Texas Chainsaw Massacre mayhem for good measure.

  • ScrimmySCrim

    Now I have to see it.

  • Fredo

    I'm getting a "Strangers" meets "Funny Games" with a strong dash of "The Purge" mash-up feel out of this movie.

    It'll be tough to get me to skip The World's End for anything. But I'll give it a try.

  • BendinIntheWind
  • George Tarleton

    It sounds like it kind of IS a Strangers rip-off. Just a really good one. Which is odd, but I'll take it.

  • xihetafolex

    мy coυѕιɴ ιѕ мαĸιɴɢ $51/нoυr oɴlιɴe. υɴeмployed ғor α coυple oғ yeαrѕ αɴd prevιoυѕ yeαr ѕнe ɢoт α $1З619cнecĸ wιтн oɴlιɴe joв ғor α coυple oғ dαyѕ. ѕee мore αт...­ ­ViewMore----------------------...

    Cuts down on peripheral vision, gives you a distinctive silhouette, makes it hard to breathe, and means that you can't be 100% percent sure if the other guys in masks are who you think they are at any time." All that being said I'll likely go see it, provided no actual animals get hurt. Do they?

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