Lauren: It’s hard to beat The Strangers when it comes to terrifying home invasion films. Just ask The Purge from earlier this year, which lost itself in the bog of a message forced into what should have been a scary fun film of a family defending their own. What a disappointing fail. Good thing You’re Next came along just in time to fill the emptiness left in my horror loving soul.
You’re Next doesn’t move far from the basic setup of this subgenre as a family is comfortably set up in their assumedly safe home as the day slowly moves to the impending night that is dark and full of terror. As if family squabbling isn’t stressful enough for one night; now there are masked murderers right outside the doors of their home that is suddenly not the safe house it was once thought to be.
***Warning: Spoilers Throughout***
Zac: As someone who rarely partakes in horror films I have been hearing rumblings about You’re Next being one that is worth going out for. So color me caught off guard for about the first half of the film or so where I was wondering what all these people were talking about. The film is full of bad actors (and one of the good ones, Amy Seimetz from Upstream Color, is the second to go) and characters doing dumb things, and for every clever surprise they mix in something rather stupid. About half way through the film, and after most of the cast is killed off, things start coming together and the film settles into a pretty nice groove that is fun, suspenseful and inventive. It’s at its strongest when it’s less about surprises and more about letting the viewer in on what the characters don’t know.
Lauren: Well I loved it, beginning and all. Especially the scene around the dinner table where the family is yelling over their plates at each other because this feeds into the dynamic that continues on even when a brother had an arrow protruding from his back. The only stupid move I can think of was the daughter-in-law staying in the room with the dead mom because the assumption that the enemy was only outside the house is no longer in place. As for the mom being left alone in the room upstairs in the first place, well you gotta narrow the herd somehow. This film can’t exactly include something similar to the scene from The Lost World: Jurassic Park where people drop like flies as the raptors chase them through the tall grass because this type of horror film doesn’t allow for a mass number of murders all at once. Plus having the daughter stupidly make a break for it allowed for a pretty funny moment of more bickering, and an even funnier build up (I’m dead inside) where I could hear the Chariots of Fire theme song playing right before the daughter runs right into a neck-high wire.
And consider this: the stupidity of the family was used to greatly contrast our survivalist Aussie. Had everyone else been thinking things through we wouldn’t have noticed her taking charge and getting things done from the beginning. And she had to start with small steps that would seem like a natural thing for someone to do who is able to keep their head in this situation without the special training as a child. That’s what made the reveal so entertaining later on as the killers realize that the situation has been underestimated. Plus, having her stick out like this gives her the added support she needs for us to cheer for her to survive it all because it’s pretty much a guarantee that not a lot of survivors will remain, if any. But as soon as she steps up we realize it’s not completely fish in a barrel as she eventually becomes a much more violent Kevin McCallister as she breaks out the “Not in my (boyfriend’s) house!” battle cry. Kevin McCallister mixed with River Tam.
Zac: I loved the Home Alone stuff, and Sharni Vinson is great as our Aussie lead Erin, but again this doesn’t really kick in for half the film. Sure there were some laughs before this, Joe Swanberg delivers most of them, but I stand by the first half clearly being the weakest segment of the film. Once the obvious twist that one of the brothers, Felix (a horrendous Nicholas Tucci), is behind the attack, the film really takes off. The fact that we know Felix and Zee are bad guys brings a ton of tension to the picture and they play it out wonderfully. This dynamic, paired with the rise of Erin, is a blast to watch and I actually got more humor out of watching the bad guys fall into Erin’s traps and anticipating the carnage she has waiting for them. The fact that they don’t just let Erin have her way without getting a few cuts and bruises of her own was also much appreciated.
And let’s not forget that song!
Lauren: That song!
Zac: For all my nitpicks towards the early moments of the film, it is all almost entirely forgiven as the film moves forward; as long as Tucci isn’t opening his mouth. You’re Next is some of the most fun I had at the theater this summer, and while it isn’t some dramatic reinvention of the genre, it is a very good horror entry. I’m still taking The Conjuring over this for best horror film I’ve seen this year, but this is an easy recommendation for anyone who adores the genre.
Lauren: Yeah, The Conjuring is up there, but I’m taking this over that because of the laughs and cheerleading it allows for. Plus, you don’t get to see anyone killed by a blender in The Conjuring.
Speaking of which, horror films are always judged on the scariness of the murderer, zombies, vengeful plants, Ring girl rip off, what have you, but that’s mostly when they’re taking themselves seriously. What I appreciate is being able to contrast those films with something a little lighter, like this, in which the killers aren’t these unstoppable, murderous forces. They definitely have their places, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes it’s OK to throw in a Scream killer or two in which they take a few cracks along the way. They still do a lot of destruction to the larger starting cast as they seem to be the typical horror film bad guys at first, but once Erin starts fighting back they’re brought down to a more human level, and it’s just so satisfying for the bad guys to be cut down as well. Now let’s go find some more brains that need tenderizing!
There’s a reason Cabin in the Woods is one of my favorite films. You’re Next definitely isn’t that, but they are still comparable in many of the aspects that I appreciate the most in both films. So I can see this easily becoming a favorite movie to rewatch for years to come as well.
Lauren’s Final Grade: A- Follow @BewareOfTrees
Zac’s Final Grade: B