I read a little blurb about this movie, You’re Next (2011), about seven or eight months ago, but couldn’t find out a whole lot of information. However, reading that this might be the next great slasher, I was on a mission to hunt down whatever I could about this movie. It wasn’t until a few months later that I was finally able to see a trailer, and then I was hooked.
You’re Next is considered a mumblegore production. And while I’d heard of mumblecore, I had to look up the term to make sure I was following. Mumblecore is a low budget film, typically with amateur actors, that relies on a lot of improvisation. In fact, the cast will often share screenwriting credits. The focus is on naturalistic conversation. Mumblegore is a term used to describe films combining elements of mumblecore and horror (gore).
You’re Next is an indie film that doesn’t quite feel like an indie film. The acting is solid, the dialogue feels natural, if stilted at times (more on that later), and the atmosphere was suitably spooky and isolated – exactly what this film was going for.
Note: There are potential spoilers throughout this review, so you may want to stop here and return after watching the movie.
The movie opens with some sex – really short-lived sex – and then we get a satisfied looking man and a very unsatisfied looking woman. (Nice touch!) There are no opening credits, but our attention is quickly grasped as we get two early kills – at least we get some satisfaction.
Over the next few minutes we meet our key players, Aubrey and Paul (Barbara Crampton and Rob Moran), Erin and Crispian (Sharni Vinson and AJ Bowen), Drake and Kelly (Joe Swanberg and Margaret Laney), Felix and Zee (Nicholas Tucci and Wendy Glenn), and Aimee and Tariq (Amy Seimetz and Ti West). I appreciated the fact that we get to know our key players right up front. It’s explained quickly who is who and how they relate to one another. Parents, their kids, and the kids’ special others. Tension between the siblings is established, as is the notion that the parents – Aubrey and Paul – feel caught in the middle.
Crispian is the academic, and Erin is his much younger, beautiful girlfriend. Drake is his brother, and Kelly his rather uptight wife. I didn’t really know what to make of the other brother, Felix, and his strange girlfriend, Zee (with two E‘s), but they rubbed me the wrong way right from the get-go. And little sister Aimee filled the role to a T – sweet, young, and bubbly – though boyfriend Tariq had pretentious written all over him. There’s some uncomfortable hugging, and some rather ridiculous dialogue. On the other hand, if the siblings aren’t close, then everything fits.
Throughout the 20 minutes of set-up, I learned two things: 1) Crispian, Felix, and Zee (with two E‘s) are sketchy as hell, and 2) Erin is way too together and smart to be hanging with Crispian. I had to wonder if number 2 meant more to the storyline, or if Erin is just a really capable gal.
And then things really get moving. The family is gathered for a reunion. Unbeknownst to them they are at a house that is next door to the opening murders. Uh oh! The family is around the dinner table with Mom and Dad at either end. The couples are seated together, and at first it seems like Drake and Kelly are actually trying. They engage Tariq and all his pretentiousness in conversation, but then Drake’s attention turns to Crispian. Apparently, Crispian might have a habit of getting involved with his students, and Erin is no exception. She is his former TA, though they are quick to tell everyone that’s not the case anymore. Under-the-breath comments, and snarkiness ensues until we see Tariq catch something out of the corner of his eye. Something’s outside, and he gets up to take a closer look. A quiet hissing fills the air. I particularly liked how this played out. We knew something happened, but instead of showing us immediately, we see the other characters fussing at one another, and then one by one they realize something happened. This created some tension and expectation. I certainly wanted to know what was up!
Aimee’s scream rips the air, and we see Tariq turn around – with an arrow in his head! WHOA! That wasn’t there before! More arrows come flying in, but everyone is fairly quick to move, with Erin being the quickest on the draw. (Alright, who the hell is she?)
People are diving for cover, and poor Drake takes one to the back protecting his mother. During all of this, Felix and Zee are relatively safe, away from the windows and in the hallway that leads to the dining room – interesting!
Cell phone signals are nonexistent, and Paul points out that can’t be the case – he made a call just earlier that day and had no issues. Felix offers that they must be using a jammer. Again, interesting that he is so quick to point that out. Erin points out that they need to get out of the dining room. Good idea seeing as there are huge windows everywhere. She tells Crispian to grab Drake and get him out of there, and tells the other family members to grab chairs and hold them in front of their faces while they make a run for the hallway. The plan works, though Erin’s chair gets shot with a crossbow and dies. Poor chair – it served its purpose. What is this girl majoring in? And of course, she’s the only one that thinks to grab something that could be used as a weapon.
Everyone is standing around in the foyer – yelling, screaming, fussing. Poor Kelly is confused as to whether or not she should take the arrow out of Drake’s back. NO! Duh! And Erin (of course) gets to her just in time. Instead, she proposes to put pressure on it while everyone yells some more.
“Someone needs to make a run for the cars.” I don’t know who said it, but you know that while it may seem like a good idea, as soon as those doors open something bad’s going to happen.
Apparently, Drake’s the fastest, but he has an arrow sticking out of his back. Crispian and Felix make lame attempts at offering themselves up – wussies. But it’s sweet Aimee that comes to the rescue.
“I’m fast,” she announces and everyone turns to look at her. “I’ll do it.”
This is one of those moments… No one wants her to do it, but they know that maybe she’s their best chance. I figured Dad would man up, but his wife is a blubbering mess. He tells his little girl that they will open the front door at the last minute. She needs to run as fast as she can. They won’t expect anyone to come barreling out the front door. And though I suspected what might happen, well, let’s just say I was very surprised. I won’t tell you what happens, but I will say this – this is the end of Aimee, but she sure didn’t die how I thought she would.
Mom loses it, and who can blame her! Her son gets shot with an arrow protecting her, and she has to watch her little girl bleed out on the floor! Dad knows he needs to get his wife away from this, and Erin knows they need to make sure the doors and windows are all locked.
One more time – WHO IS THIS GIRL?!
Paul takes his wife, Aubrey, upstairs and tells her to lay down. She begs him to stay with her, but he says he needs to check on the kids. He’ll be right back… yeah, you know someone’s going to die.
Aubrey doesn’t last long left on her own, though she does get out a warning scream. Meanwhile it would seem that everyone is a moron – everyone except Erin, of course. Erin is barreling through the house locking windows and checking doors. She grabs a knife. As she is locking the windows in the kitchen, a hand comes shooting through the glass and grabs her, but once again our pretty little dancer (She was in Step Up 3D; Yes, I watched it!) rises to the occasion and stabs the offender.
Let me take a moment here, and say that the bad guys all have animal masks on. And I did spend some time trying to figure out what they were.
“Hey,” I said to The Husband as he came out of his office. “What is that? A lamb? A sheep? Ewe? What do you think?”
“It’s an animal mask,” he answered me – such a helpful guy.
I thanked him profusely with my middle finger and looked it up. It’s a lamb. (And a tiger and fox too.)
Anyway, the masks are creepy, no doubt about that. And it’s about this time that we find out there’s someone on the inside… I KNEW IT!
Meanwhile, where the hell is Crispian? Oh yeah, he made another run for it – for what I don’t know, but he has yet to show his rather pointless face again. No worries, Erin will save everyone.
We learn – and I am thankful here, as I didn’t want her to be the bad guy – that Erin’s father got a little paranoid after she was born and became a survivalist. Apparently, he taught his daughter well, ’cause she is kicking some serious ass. Did I mention she took down one of the creepy mask guys with a meat tenderizer? Well, she did – right after he threw poor Kelly through a window. People are dying left and right!
Aimee’s gone, Aubrey too, and Paul was killed when he went upstairs to check on Aubrey, and Kelly too. The body count is rising. Crispian is still no where to be found, and Erin decides that looking in the basement for things they can use as weapons is the way to go… Four enter – Erin, Drake, Felix, and Zee (with two E‘s; watch and you’ll see) – but only three come out.
At this point we know who’s in on it, our heroine doesn’t, and I’m still wondering where her useless (pointless, worthless… whatever!) boyfriend is.
If I told you what happened next, I would give away too much, but let me just say that the ending is very satisfying, and our body count rises by at least a few more.
If you’re a fan of slasher, you’ll like this. I am a fan, and I did. Though I don’t consider it your typical slasher, as there is more than one killer. And while the kills aren’t particularly inventive or drawn out, there’s enough flying blood here to satisfy the more ghoulish among us.
Director Adam Wingard knows his way around a horror film. He ramped up the tension when needed, and dialed it back so that we got to know our characters a bit. He did a great job, and I look forward to seeing more of his work.
The rest of the cast was spot on! Sharni Vinson as Erin was convincing as someone that could kick some serious ass if need be. Drake was weak, but tried. Felix and Zee were sketchy, Crispian was useless. All the actors admirably filled their roles, and though the dialogue at times seemed a bit forced, it somehow worked. Many of the scenes would have suffered had the film been overly scripted, but the chaos, the raised voices, people trying to talk over one another – it all fit the mood of the movie.
I’ve watched a few duds these past months, but I wholeheartedly recommend You’re Next!
4 1/2 creepy lamb masks out of five.