You're Next (2011) Seen in theaters RIGHT NOW! (2013) after sitting on the studio shelf for a couple years. This film is a home invasion film with a twist and some scary ass masked worn by the attackers. When a wealthy family comes together for an anniversary party for their parents, the house is attacked by men in masked. The evening of celebration become a fight for survival. Then of course there is a twist...
The question I had going in was why did this sit on the shelf for a couple years? Sure there were a couple of home invasion films made before this one was finished. You're next did well on the festival circuit and probably have made money even if release in 2011. "The Strangers" and the remake of "The Last House on the Left" the first a random attack with a dark ending and also the use of masks, the latter a random attack, hard core revenge film. The influence of these films getting big press and advertising budgets may have influenced Lionsgate's decision to not release right away. Who knows if it made a difference, it is true that there is a lot of buzz around the film. Director Adam Wingard has done his part in promoting the film as the release date drew near. He knows the horror community is a group that pays attentions and pay tribute to the film makers, writers and actors who interact with them. So there has been a good deal of interaction and thus some really positive blogs for the film.
The film itself written by Simon Barrett who did the wonderful and surprising "Dead Birds" gives us a well structured script with some surprises humor along with the horror. You're Next is a solid entry in the home invasion sub-genre with an solid story and a great lead in final girl Erin (Sharni Vinson). Vinson a competent Australian actress really takes command of the role, the new girlfriend of Crispian (AJ Bowen). She is at the party to meet the family and when the shit starts going down she is the one who takes charge. So often in these films the women are reduced to babbling, fearful victims who are stalked and killed without a fight. Here though the film takes a different approach with a women who knows how to defend herself and is not to be taken lightly. It is a refreshing approach that I really appreciated.
Sometimes though the structuring of scripts can be done too well. For someone like me who has done a lot of skill building in screenwriting the there are some foreshadowing bits that gave the largest twists of the film away. I doubt the average viewer though picked up on it on a conscious level but for me there were a couple things that gave too much away. While the opening was classic horror with a college professor sleeping with one of his students. Her realization as he is poking her that her choice was probably a poor life path, was great. The sound horror tropes of someone is out there is well executed and the demise of the professor is good too. This is important to the later plot so not only does it establish that the killers are scary and brutal but as all good scenes it serves another purpose, to make cover for the home invasion of our main family. Since there are more than one attack it will be a crime wave instead of a targeted attack on just one family.
The establishment of the dynamics of the main family is done well, a wealthy couple Paul (Rob Moran) and Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) inviting the kids to the country place for a celebration of their 35th anniversary. Now this alone was a bit of a put off, these two actors are way to young to have been married for 35 years. I get that they are playing older but damn they just look too good for the idea to play. It could be that since they married young they are well into their marriage but it seemed a bit of a stretch for me. It could happen mathematically if Crampton had her first child at 18, of course Moran would be younger than that. I found myself just letting go of the idea, suspending disbelief consciously and letting the film not bother me so much. Besides you have great acting with Crampton playing Aubrey the mentally fragile Mother. She is great although her role is short. A veteran actress who appeared in such films as The Re-Animator, Chopping Mall, From Beyond, and The Sisterhood she is up to the task and looking as beautiful as ever.
The sons and spouses arrive to fill out the cast, Crispian and Erin, youngest son Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and Zee (Wendy Glenn), Oldest son Drake (Joe Swanberg) and wife Kelly (Margaret Laney) oh and lets not forget daughter Aimee (Amy Seimetz) who has the most comical death scene I have seen in a while. Her boyfriend Tariq (Ti West) fills out the victims who will be hunted by out three killers Lamb Mask (L.C. Holt), Tiger Mask (Simon Barrett) and Fox Mask (Lane Hughes).
The film as you expect is the three masked players attacking and killing the family members. An astute viewer will know something is afoul early in the film by listening to the dialog of the cast when the first attack happens in front of everyone at the dinner table. I at that point knew the main twist which was sad because we were only 15 minutes into the film. When a second event happens later and the character that leaves the scene is not followed in the film in any way I had the second part of the twist and was a bit disappointed in myself for not watching the film like normal movie goers.
Even with my personal disappointments there is a lot to like about this film. The lead Erin is a survivor and takes charge right away. This is the kind of situation she is most prepared for and she masters her surroundings right from the start. So many times in horror films the motivation for the main character is to overcome a flaw in her/his personality to overcome the situation. This new better takes is saying what if the killers didn't know that one of their supposed victims is way more equipped to handle them then they are to handle her? Erin moves immediately into action when the first kill takes place. She looks for weapons assesses the situation and determines the safest place to be. She is up to the task of handling the situation even though it is deadly and extreme. While the others in the group are being picked off she is fighting back.
I loved that in this film we know more than our lead, while she plays at dealing with the external threat we get to see the threat on the inside that she does not know about. It makes for some great scenes where we know she is in danger but she has no idea. All the way to the end when our final girl has the confrontation with the last threat she is a powerhouse who through strength and perseverance ends up with the upper hand.
So I would recommend this film, it is a competent and enjoyable horror film with a strong female lead. Some of the violence is over the top in a good way, the plot although a bit transparent to me will be a pleasure for many with twist and turns that create tension. In the end you may be surprised and should come away with the film with a feeling that you were entertained and the cost was money well spent.