You’re Next (18)

Dir. Adam Wingard, 95mins, USA, 2013

The titular hook for this oft-delayed horror (financial wrangling rather than quality control) from much-hyped genre director, Adam Wingard, is only actually used twice in the movie, as “You’re Next” is written in blood to act as a warning for the masked killer’s latest victim. It’s one of many exhausted gimmicky tropes littered throughout a film which thinks it’s a lot more reverentially clever and groundbreaking than it actually is.


Gathering on a requisitely remote hilltop location to celebrate the wedding anniversary of their parents, a group of siblings and their significant others, most notable of which is Crispian (A.J. Bowen) and his Australian girlfriend and former student, Erin (Sharni Vinson), have their familial inharmoniousness interrupted by a group of weapon wielding men, all of whom are wearing different farmyard animal masks. Their motivation is unknown, their identities equally mysterious, but the family must play a grim version of The Crystal Maze by way of Cluedo in order to make it out alive.  


Undeniably fun, in an eye-rolling kind of way, Wingard’s film clunks and thuds under the weight of some hammy dialogue and extremely wooden acting. If this was intentional, then kudos, but it doesn’t quite step from the realm of being utterly stupid. Lines such as “we’re so isolated up here, it might be nice to have a neighbour”, and “we heard noises, so we stayed upstairs” are sub-standard Scooby Doo, so-much-so that you’re never quite sure if this is meant to be a parody of the genre. Whatever the mission statement, You’re Next exists in the shadow of the superb Cabin in the Woods, and suffers by comparison in the modern horror landscape.


Similarly, the film wants to be a game-changer in the mould of Scream, but that doesn’t mean pulling EXACTLY THE SAME TRICK when it comes to a pivotal plot point. From the minute the effectively sinister masked men appear, it’ll take you a matter of moments to figure out what they want and who wants them to do it. Even the most casual of genre enthusiasts will find the metaphorical light bulb above the head glowing brightly.


There is an element of horror that provides some level of heightened cartoonish enjoyment, and there’s a creepy emergence from under a bed, but scares are reduced to cheap tactics, such as characters asking questions in an audibly ridiculous loud voice, completely out of context, just to generate a jump.


The characters and their actions also make any emotional investment redundant; how can you root for a group of people who make the decision to carry dining chairs to protect themselves from arrows shooting through the window, when any normal person would just crawl along the floor? And during the aftermath of said window based attack, they proceed to gaze out into the dark, seemingly daydreaming and unaware of what’s just happened. It’s infuriating how consistently stupid the group is. And let’s not start on the Am-Dram histrionics on display after the initial attack. You’ll end up cheering for the bad guys.


So thank the casting couch for Sharni Vinson; any intrigue derided from the script is not from the numerous kills or the creaking floorboards, but how come this potential Laurie Strode (Halloween) suddenly goes all John Rambo when the proverbial hits the fan. To use an Australian term, she is full of “spunk”, easy to root for, and possibly the only character that doesn’t seem to be attending a poorly organised murder mystery party, and Vinson imbues her with a real Sarah Connor can-do attitude that saves the film from rental mediocrity.


The retro synth soundtrack evocatively recalls Carpenter classics, and there are enough frustratingly brilliant moments of Home Alone horror to keep the midnight crowd entertained, but it’s more a case of “next” than “you’re next”.