“YOU’RE NEXT” (Movie Review)
It’s understandable if, as a viewer, you initially experience difficulty being eloquent when it comes to navigating and expressing thoughts on YOU’RE NEXT. If so, it’s because the literal buzzing you’re feeling upon its end leaves you with essentially one word: great.
Just as the home invasion resurgence begins to wear out its welcome, Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett have crafted a surprise: something fun. By eschewing the standard devastation and harrowing beat-downs we’ve grown accustomed to, the clever script by Barrett and equally smart, stylish direction by Wingard is assured, witty and expertly subverts expectations in a way that absolutely slays a packed house.
Easily, one of the smartest moves is cast and crew. As YOU’RE NEXT is about the deadly siege on a dysfunctional family reunion, the familial atmosphere of the writer/director and an ensemble made up of frequent collaborators and friends gives the film a palpable energy and chemistry, only aided by constant forward motion. In a fantastic turn, AJ Bowen stars as Crispian, a middle son bringing his girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson) to celebrate his parents’ (Rob Moran and Barbara Crampton) anniversary. Along for the weekend is his sister, her boyfriend (Amy Seimetz and Ti West) and two brothers and their respective sweethearts (Joe Swanberg and Margaret Laney and Nicholas Tucci and Wendy Glenn) and a scenic country home. The chaos hits early on and it’s a real testament to the talent on display—both acting and script—that the relationships can be perfectly, yet minimally and hilariously defined enough beforehand, and stunningly continue to do so midst the bloodbath.
It starts with an arrow. The intruders, donning inherently frightening animal masks, unload their crossbows during a particularly tense dinner; one moment of many in which indie filmmaker/actor Joe Swanberg proceeds to steal scenes with his smarmy and eventually affecting performance as young Republican, Drake. And while Swanberg is most definitely a standout of the company, YOU’RE NEXT absolutely belongs to Sharni Vinson.
Vinson’s Erin has something up her sleeve for the threat outside and it’s this quality, conveyed in a fierce, physical, cheer-worthy performance, that heralds Erin (and Vinson) as the contemporary “final girl.” What’s more is that Vinson’s confidence on screen grounds so much of the insanity that unspools around her.
What’s surprising about YOU’RE NEXT is just how seriously funny it is, but not at the expense of its horror, or with an interest in being meta. It stems from the authentic, snappy and ball-busting nature of family interaction that heightens as the stakes do. That handling of stark violence and the truly comedic—sometimes in the very same instant, giving the film a devious, “home invasion by Agatha Christie” nature—is evident of great crowd pleasing talent from Wingard. The filmmaker behind acclaimed, grimmer fare like A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE is able to craft thick, proper tension that houses unforgettable visual gags and dialogue exchanges that in many other hands, almost certainly wouldn’t have worked.
Put simply, it’s great.
This review was initially published out of Fantastic Fest in September 2011, it has been expanded and reposted in light of the film’s theatrical release.