Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 34 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Bloody Violence, Language and some Sexuality/Nudity
Directed by: Adam Wingard
Written by: Simon Barrett
Starring: Sharni Vinson, AJ Bowen, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, Joe Swanberg, Ti West, Rob Moran & Barbara Crampton
Why does it always seem to take so long for legitimately good horror movies to be released? CABIN IN THE WOODS was a three year wait, while TRICK ‘R TREAT was two years and dumped straight-to-DVD, and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY sits on a shelf for three years before becoming the monster franchise it is today. It’s a pity, but good things come to those who wait and horror fans have been waiting two full years for YOU’RE NEXT. This independent home-invasion flick made huge waves at both Toronto International Film Festival and Fantastic Fest. So big were these waves, that there was a bidding war between distributors for the rights to release this movie to the masses. Lionsgate won and on the shelf it’s sat for the past two years.
With a long wait, comes a lot of hype. It’s a pity when films seem to collapse under the weight of their own reputations. Some reviews I read of YOU’RE NEXT called it downright original and a reinvention of the genre, awarding perfect scores and the highest of grades. To be blunt, YOU’RE NEXT isn’t perfect. It’s got a few problems that I will address in this review, but it’s so entertaining and a lot of fun. I jumped a total of two times during the film, but I was thoroughly enjoying myself through the entirety of the film.
The Davison family are gathering at their enormous vacation home to celebrate their parents 35th anniversary. Some of the siblings haven’t seen each other in years and a few old grudges die hard. As rivalries begin to flare, an all-out attack is waged on the home from three masked psychopaths whose only interest is to kill them all. One of the guests of the family is Erin, a girlfriend to one of the siblings. Erin has a bit of an unusual background, one that makes her a survivor. She isn’t going down without a fight. So as the tension rises, so does the body count and the violence. This one is a blood-soaked blast of twisted entertainment and pitch-black humor.
From what I’ve seen in message boards and podcasts, director Adam Wingard doesn’t have a whole lot of devoted fans, but instead a bunch of detractors. There are reasons for this, but I consider myself to be a bit of a fan. I thought his serial killer tale A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE was solid, I enjoyed his wraparound segment in V/H/S and his story in V/H/S/2, also his ABC’S OF DEATH short was one of the good ones. However, I found both HOME SICK and POP SKULL (his first efforts) to both be damn near unwatchable. This all being said, YOU’RE NEXT is Wingard’s most mature and professional work yet. Relishing in the sheer brutality of things in one scene and then milking every bit of possible quiet suspense from the next, Wingard is clearly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the independent horror world.
Bonus points also are awarded to Wingard for finding a way to shoot Ti West (the pretentious hack whose only good thing came in the form of his segment in V/H/S, though I am holding out hope for SACRAMENT) in the head with an arrow. I felt like cheering, but those are my personal feelings against an overrated mumblecore hipster being hailed as a horror champion. AJ Bowen (from THE SIGNAL and A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE) also has a bit of a key role here, while Joe Swanberg (V/H/S) is a standout as well. This (and THE LORDS OF SALEM) is also Barbara Crampton’s return to acting in the genre she did so well in, horror films. It is odd to see the attractive young thing from RE-ANIMATOR playing a middle-aged mother, but she did the job well. However, some of the other cast members have a couple of shaky moments.
Speaking of shaky moments, Adam Wingard still hasn’t quite kicked the habit of shaking the camera every now and then. It was annoying in A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE, actually fit the concept in V/H/S and V/H/S/2. In YOU’RE NEXT, it’s not unbearable but it detracts a bit from a couple of scenes. If the camera is shaking so noticeably that it takes me out of the scene, that is a serious detriment to the film.
These issues addressed, the movie is stellar in nearly every other area. From a creepy opening (featuring an even creepier Larry Fessenden), the film opens with an eerie feeling that never quite drops. That is until the home invasion begins and then things just become a non-stop barrage of insanity. Violence is frequent, gore even more so, and even a few laughs work their way in. It’s not a comedy, but it does have some sick bits of dark humor. There are a couple of cool twists thrown in for good measure and it all concludes in a final 30 minutes that are simply incredible. This also includes one of the most original kills I’ve ever seen in a movie. You’ll definitely know it when you see it.
Some shaky acting and moments of even shakier camera work aside, YOU’RE NEXT is so damn solid that I didn’t care about its flaws to a high degree in the end. Instead, I had a blast. I can easily see YOU’RE NEXT, SINISTER, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, and TRICK ‘R TREAT being considered as horror classics in the future. This is a solid scarefest that proves you don’t need a giant budget or mega-effects to be frightening or engaging. This is a horror movie made by people who love horror movies and they deliver! This is highly recommended!