Thursday, August 22, 2013

Review: You're Next

by Patrick Bromley
Stop looking for the next great horror movie. Here it is.

You're Next, the newest collaboration from director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett, isn't a movie that traffics in twists, but rather surprises. You're better off being surprised. I'm going to try and tread lightly.

Maybe don't read the reviews (except for this one). And maybe don't watch the trailer, even though it's kick-ass. Just go see the movie opening weekend, hopefully with a big audience, and have a great time. This is a movie that deserves to be shared with a crowd. It is the best film of its kind since the original Scream in 1996: it's scary, smart, funny (but not jokey), suspenseful and clever. It has the same kind of energy as Scream, too, in that it's FUN without being goofy or silly. It's not a horror comedy. It's straight-up horror, but there are laughs in it -- sometimes because of funny or well-observed character interactions and sometimes in that "Holy shit!" way that only really fun movies provide.
A wealthy family gets together at a remote home for what appears to be the first time in a while: there's Dad (Farrelly Brothers regular Rob Moran) and Mom (Barbara Crampton, making a welcome return), who is prone to panic attacks and requires medicating. There's Prodigal Son Drake (Joe Swanberg) and his slightly annoyed wife Kelly (Margaret Laney). There's beloved daughter Aimee (Amy Siemetz) and her new boyfriend, a filmmaker named Tariq (director Ti West). There's youngest son Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and his new goth girlfriend Zee (Wendy Glenn). And finally, there's Crispian (AJ Bowen), the son who turned away from his family's wealth and became a college professor, and his girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson of Step Up 3D), the biggest outsider to the group. Everything is going fine: there's some conversation, some awkward tension between siblings -- regular family stuff -- but then something comes crashing through the window. Before you know it, there are men(?) outside the house wearing only animal masks, armed and intent on breaking in to kill everyone.

That's the movie. Mostly.
Unlike some of my other favorite horror movies of recent years, You're Next isn't about a whole lot more than it's about. It has none of the political implications of The Woman and isn't interested in the meta deconstructionism of Cabin in the Woods. This is not to say that it contains no subtext; Wingard and Barrett are clearly interested in blowing up some genre conventions and tweaking the traditional role of the Final Girl. But that stuff is secondary. More than anything, it's a movie that's incredibly good at being what it is: scary, suspenseful, funny, entertaining and FUN. It's a testament to just having solid foundations -- good writing, good direction, good cast. I'm reminded of something I saw Scott Derrickson write earlier this week: "A film doesn't have to reinvent the wheel, it needs to roll it well."

You're Next rolls the wheel really fucking well.

I have little patience for the home invasion movie, whether it's Funny Games or The Strangers or The Purge or Funny Games (2008) or whatever. This may be because I find them too horrifying; life is terrible enough without feeling like people in masks are going to break into my house and kill my family. The argument could be made that I avoid these movies because they work, which is what good horror movies are supposed to do. With You're Next, it's as if Wingard and Barrett sensed my unease (the world is all about me) and came up with a solution. What that solution is I won't say, but the pair managed to take a genre I typically avoid and spin it into one of my favorite movies of the year.

Anyone who has been waiting for Adam Wingard to blow up should hopefully see it happen after this. There was a ton of good stuff in A Horrible Way to Die -- a horror movie told as sensitive indie drama, and one I like more every time I see it -- but some of the directing choices got in the way of the otherwise strong emotional connections. His contributions to recent horror anthologies like V/H/S, V/H/S/2 and The ABCs of Death have been mixed, with some good ideas and a solid streak of humor (in the latter two, at least), but I hadn't yet seen Wingard firing on every cylinder. That would be You're Next, a movie that understands how to build a scare, how to create sympathetic characters in a short amount of time and, most importantly, gets the tone just right. It's a home invasion/slasher movie that doesn't feel mean spirited. For once, we're not supposed to be rooting for the goddamn killers. We like the characters -- even the ones who are introduced as douchebags -- and we want them to survive.
Lionsgate has been sitting on the movie for two years, and while I want to rail against them for keeping it under wraps for so long, I have to swallow that and commend them for giving the movie such a fighting chance. They're marketing the hell out of it (and actually doing a good job); more importantly, they're actually giving the movie a theatrical release instead of just dumping it straight to DVD the way they do so many of their horror titles. You're Next should be seen in a theater on a Friday night with a packed house ready to have a good time. It's that kind of horror movie -- one that celebrates the audience experience rather than punishing them.

I can't wait to see You're Next again, not just because it's a blast but because there are so many clever touches to Simon Barrett's screenplay that only really become clear once you've seen the whole thing play out. None of the characters are what you believe them to be when you first meet them, for better and for worse. The movie subverts our expectations in small ways, even though it's not really about being subversive. It's about delivering.

You're Next delivers. Please go see it.

22 comments:

  1. I'm in an absolute frenzy to see this movie. I'm trying not to let all the positive things I've heard and read about it build it up to a standard that it can't live up to. But, really, I can't wait to see this.

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    1. Writing the review was tricky, because I didn't want to be too hyperbolic and create unrealistic expectations. But then I pretty much did anyway. If it helps. I had crazy high hopes, too, and I did not feel let down.

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  2. I've heard they use a Dwight Twilley tune to great effect, which makes me want to see it even more.

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    1. I've listened to that song about 20 times in the last two weeks.

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  3. While I'm trying to temper my expectations, if this isn't one of the best horror movies in recent years (but I think it will be), it sure sounds like it will at least be one of the best movies of the summer. I'm super stoked to see it. I'm very, very excited.

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  4. I'm starting to hate September for getting in the way of October... I think I'll regret saying that come November, but to hell with it, bring on Good scary movies!

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  5. I saw it last night and for once I'm on board with everything Patrick said. It's such a solid, well-turned piece of horror with characters you actually give a damn about and don't WANT to die even if you're decrying some of their decisions along with the rest of the audience (and oh yeah, this really really needs to be seen with a big audience). And god, that song...

    Also, I had this horrible moment during a scene of realizing that this is pretty much how the Finn clan of siblings would react during a home invasion. We're hosed.

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  6. Awesome, awesome, awesome - now I'm sure I'm going to love this. So sure I just bet my first-born child on it - you better not let me down, Bromley!

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  7. I might finally stop being such a horror-movie coward and go see this in a theater.

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  8. I am not a horror guy... the genre's stories simply very rarely strike me as appealing or interesting. I love Psycho, The Mist and a few others (Recount, anyone?!), but I just don't find demons or murderous home invasions particularly interesting. (Unless that home is Air Force One and the demon is Gary Oldman, that is.) And after reading the AV Club's Spoiler Space review on this here film, I gotta say that while yes, that is a clever "solution" they thought up to the home-invasion genre problem Patrick identifies, I'm still not much interested. Oh well.

    I gotta ask, though, because it apparently hasn't been mentioned on the site so far: have any of you F-heads seen Mientras Duermes (English title: Sleep Tight)? That DVD Verdict review did pique my interest, and I really enjoyed it. As The AV Club says, it's basically a feature-length reprise of Psycho's sinking-car scene...

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  9. Just saw this tonight and loved the hell out of it. Patrick certainly didn't oversell it and now having watched it, I can see how tricky it must have been to write that review - good job, man!

    And you've nailed it with stressing the FUN aspect of this movie - not that a bunch of horrible shit doesn't happen - it is a horror movie - but I walked out of it smiling. It doesn't do anything SUPER revolutionary with the genre, it just does what it does so damn well.

    One of my new favourite horror movies and one of the best movies period I've seen this year.

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    1. P.S. How often do you watch a horror movie and immediately want to watch it again? Personally, never, but I could and might see this again tomorrow.

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    2. I know how you feel! I can't wait to see it again.

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  10. Finally saw it this weekend. It's fun, everyone, have a good time with it! Patrick is right that the less you read about it or know about it, the better.

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  11. I hate to be the asshole here, but I saw "You're Next" this evening, and I don't really get what all the fuss is about. It was an alright horror movie, I liked it okay, but I didn't really think it was all THAT amazing or anything.. It was kind of Scream-esque at times, I get that tie-in, and I liked the second half more where she kind of turned into a badass, but I'll just go watch the original Scream for this type of thing. I wish I liked it more, but I'm afraid it was just a case of overhyping, and it not really being what I thought it was going to be. Perhaps I'll give it another chance at a later date and will enjoy it more. :-\

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    1. Padmé: [crying] Anakin, you're breaking my heart! You're going down a path I cannot follow!

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    2. Sorry. :-/ I'm really hoping it was just a case of misguided expectations and that a second viewing with the proper mindset will greatly improve my feelings about the movie.

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  12. Seen it twice now. Watched it last night on bluray. Watched it late at night. Turned it up loud. Turned off all the lights. Im a big fan of watching films in the right environment. And F this movie is good. Its got a great atmosphere. Everyone is game and you never know "Who's Next" the twists are nice. The Deaths are just the right amount of violence without being over the top. And it reminds me of 80s slashers were they actually try to create a scary mood and don't over rely just on gore. Got to be up there with films of the year for me

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