Letdowns are usually inevitable. When you’ve waited to see something for a while, and if the hype machine has propelled said film into epic proportions during that wait, then it’s next to impossible to live up to that hype. Does Adam Wingard’s home-invasion film YOU’RE NEXT live up to the slasher hype that the marketing is portraying? No, but in a good way.
Instead of the terrifying slasher-type vibe that the trailer gives viewers, YOU’RE NEXT is actually more of a layered family horror/drama revolving around Crispian (AJ Bowen, A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE, THE SIGNAL) and his girlfriend Erin (played excellently by BAIT 3D‘s Sharni Vinson) taking a trip to join his siblings at a vacation home owned by Crispian’s parents (an amazing Barbara Crampton and Rob Moran), to celebrate said parents’ 35th anniversary. Almost immediately it’s obviously apparent that there are some long gestating issues within the family, especially between Crispian and his brother, Drake (mumblecore’s poster boy Joe Swanberg), as Crispian doesn’t feel like he’s given the credit that the whole family gives Drake. Little by little, the issues begin to start boiling, and when they’re about to blow up, the family is randomly attacked by a group of intruders wearing animal masks. It’s a great touch, to be introduced so well to characters at odds with each other, and force them to work together to make it out alive.
This is where the trailer gives viewers the impression that they’re going to see just another home invasion film, and fortunately, it doesn’t quite play out like that. What follows, is the masked intruders trying to pick the family off one by one, but something that viewers weren’t given by TV spots and trailer, are two important elements to the film. The first is how hilarious it is. While there are quite a few moments that scare the hell out you, it never allows itself to go into typical slasher fare, instead giving you a perfect balance of humor and terror, a feat that’s quite hard to pull off, but YOU’RE NEXT does it effortlessly. Another element to the film that is a very welcomed twist, is the fact that Erin’s character grew up with hunter surivivalist parents, and when the killers begin to slaughter people, she doesn’t for a single second, let them get the upper hand on her. She commands the advantage, and instead of resorting to yet another retelling of THE STRANGERS, the second half of the film is more akin to STRAW DOGS, with Erin turning the tables on the killers and spilling quite a lot of blood herself.
It’s a solid as hell horror/black comedy hybrid, with more than a few successful ingredients, led very well by great performances by everyone involved. Bowen and Vinson are great as Crispian as Erin, and it’s great to see Bowen front and center for a lot of the film, as his chops in the film really live up to the indie cred that so many people attribute to him these days. Another amazing performance, is that of Barbara Crampton. Not only having it just be great to see Crampton back in films, her return is definitely a strong one. If taking a break from acting sometimes makes people a little rusty, it’s not the case with her role as the matriarch of the family. She gives a powerful and ultimately heartbreaking performance, and though the film largely relies on Vinson’s “take no crap” character kicking ass, I couldn’t help but to find myself thinking that Crampton stole the movie.
YOU’RE NEXT is a fun ride, full of tense, frightening scenes, and enough twists to make Chubby Checker blush (eat that pun, Gene Shalit!!), but under the surface works very well as a pitch black horror comedy about a family coming apart at the seems and having to deal with murderers while doing so.
YOU’RE NEXT invades theaters August 23rd via Lionsgate.