The dual-review film criticism site: first a spoiler-free review, then an in-depth Alternate Take.
You're Next

Reviewed by James Slaymaker.

Director Adam Wingard
Length 95 mins
Certificate 18 / R
Rating *******---
Filmmaking: 3  Personal enjoyment: 4

Photo from the article The opening act of Adam Wingard’s home-invasion horror You’re Next seems as though it could have belonged to a conventional dysfunctional family drama in the mumblecore vein, with its relaxed handheld-camera aesthetic, naturalistic dialogue and focus on the personal problems of upper-middle-class, artistically inclined twentysomethings. To celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary, recently retired couple Paul and Aubrey Davidson (Rob Moran and Barbara Crampton) have invited their four adult children (as well as their significant others) for a family reunion in an isolated country mansion. The siblings are all noxiously self-absorbed, pampered and navel-gazing, and the meeting is predictably rife with familial tension. Crispian (A.J. Bowen) is a timid, immature academic who has recently broken up with his wife in order to pursue a relationship with college student Erin (Sharni Vinson), a decision coinciding with the flagging of his career; Drake (Joe Swanberg) is a self-assured alpha male dismissive of everyone around him; and Felix’s (Nicholas Tucci) new girlfriend is an openly hostile goth. The characters’ barely-hidden bitterness starts to spill over during a family dinner in which snide comments quickly erupt into a vicious argument.

The festivities are interrupted, however, when the family is assaulted by a group of crossbow-armed killers wearing animal masks. The precise camerawork demonstrates an effective use of the textures of low-fi aesthetics to construct a tense atmosphere of claustrophobia and immediacy which occasionally explodes into moments of shockingly abrupt violence without overusing shaky-cam effects. The initial part of this attack, in particular, is shot with a sense of wild panic which makes the characters’ disorientation palpable. This section of the film also maintains a strong sense of character and satirical edge, as the central family are too caught up in their stubborn petty resentments to band together to come up with any sort of survival plan, continuing to hysterically squabble amongst the chaos. As the family are too sheltered and spineless to be of any true use, it is up to practical, level-headed outsider Erin to fight the assailants.

There is a twist around the mid-point that boldly changes the nature of the narrative, as well as the tone. From this point onwards, the action grows increasingly, self-consciously, absurd. The deaths become convoluted and the humour more overt, shifting from character-based to slapstick in a manner that, recalling early Sam Raimi, manages to be funny without undermining the horror on a visceral level. It is also at this point that the satirical intentions evolve from a gentle mocking of the privileged entitlement to a heavy-handed condemnation of the moral corruption, ruthlessness and soulless greed of the upper class.

Though it reflexively mocks itself for employing many of the clichés of its genre, the film never becomes overly knowing to the point of distancing the audience. Instead, it elevates these tropes through masterful execution, allowing the audience to be genuinely affected by the spectacle. By the end the all-encompassing cynicism gets a little overbearing, but You’re Next is too thrillingly energetic and playful in its execution for this to register as too much of a problem.

This review was published on October 08, 2013.

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