You’re Next (2011; U.S. release date 2013)
Director: Adam Wingard
Starring: Sharni Vinson, Joe Swanberg and AJ Bowmen
Slicing and dicing just doesn’t cut it anymore. Straight-up slasher flicks are nowhere as popular as they once were. Most of the popular horror movies I’ve come across lately involve the supernatural, a science fiction twist, monsters, grisly torture contraptions, found footage, or Kristen Stewart. That last one is a horror for very different reasons.
After too many sequels and remakes, slashers films have become stale, predictable and cliché ridden. It’s easy to understand why the average movie fan has outgrown the basic plot of a masked man on a killing spree. In several ways, You’re Next is a tip of the hat to a subgenre of slasher films: the horror home invasion movie. But can You’re Next breathe new life into a dying subgenre of film?
The set up for You’re Next is fairly standard but it has potential: Crazed masked killers terrorize a family reunion in a remote Missouri vacation house. The central figure of the movie is Erin (Sharni Vinson), the Australian girlfriend of eldest sibling Crispian (AJ Bowmen). Erin embodies both the strengths and problematic issues with this movie.
While most of the house guests are forgettable and essentially serve to pad the body count, Erin is the one person to remain level-headed when the poop hits the fan. Her strong survival instincts make it was easy to root for her, unlike other horror flicks where we are secretly hoping witless characters get quickly knocked off.
Certain conventions in horror movies are often used because they are effective in making the audience feel helpless and scared. One of these tropes is for the female protagonist to endure endless trauma but by the end attain a heighten level of empowerment in defeating the killer. Because Erin is very capable at staying alive throughout the movie, I rarely feel she’s in real danger even as the odds are stacking against her. Any palpable sense of terror or fear is not fully evoked here.
The final kill is typically the most empowering and satisfying but without a conventional character arc, it dulls the edge to what should be an emphatic climax. Overall, there’s not much ingenuity to the way characters are killed except for the inventive use of a kitchen appliance and a perfectly placed razor-sharp wire. You’re Next doesn’t push the envelope in the gore department either. But even though some of the hacking and slashing is not explicitly shown it can be more impactful when left to the imagination of the viewer.
Without giving away too much about the killers, I like the look of the animal mask even though it’s not as iconic as Jason’s goalie mask or the William Shatner mask in Halloween. I wish there was a back story or mythology explained as to why the animal mask is used in order to give some depth to the killers and to explain why a simple black ski mask would not suffice.
Every slasher film needs its identity which the animal masked killers could have been. However when the mask comes off any sense of mystery and danger is lost. It also calls into question why the killer puts the mask back on after taking it off. There are twists and turns that I didn’t see coming in particular as to who’s behind the killings. As it turns out, the motivation for murdering the family is paper-thin and doesn’t hold up well under closer scrutiny.
You’re Next is a decent slasher flick, it momentarily satisfies the appetite for cheap thrills though some horror fans will likely be left craving for something with more substance and bite. While You’re Next has a capable lead character, it doesn’t have an iconic killer to carry the film. You’re Next won’t reignite the popularity of slashers or home invasion movies because it’s a pale imitation of fan favourite classics. But for those who have a strong affinity for this film genre, it’s still worth checking out.