Written by Simon Barrett and Directed by Adam Wingard.
Yesterday we talked about a part of the very beginning of the slasher genre of horror, Black Christmas. It’s influences and impact is felt through almost everything. Halloween came because of it, and so many movies came because of Halloween. It started a genre with a template which so many movies have followed since. A question for us screenwriters, then, becomes; how do we CHANGE that template? Where does the genre go from that point? Some say it’s a perfect template so why change it at all. Sometimes changing it doesn’t work. But sometimes, we get a success. A new version of the slasher comes up that challenges it’s ancestor. You’re Next is one of those movies. If I was to find a name for this new sub-genre… I’d call it the anti-slasher.
The plot is simple. A family is put under siege from an unknown number of masked attackers and one by one they’re killed off. It has all the things that would make you think you’re watching just another slasher. Cookie-cutter characters that don’t get much of a character evolution and are really just meant to be killed in disgusting and creative ways. Men with an assortment of weapons wearing creepy masks that are just there to kill said Cookie-cutters. But there’s a new wildcard in the mix that takes your expectations and flips them right around. One of the “victims” does more killing that the actual men. This time the most creative kills don’t come from the slasher monsters. Suddenly, the girl you would usually dread being the final victim turns out to be more of a killer than the killers. The monster is on your side. Like watching a slasher where you can actually cheer for the one doing all the killing suddenly you’re put with a woman who’s smart, cunning, tough, and knows how to kill a man with a broken blender. As more plot twists are revealed (the usual “oh someone that is part of the family did it!”) you think it’s over for the others but Erin isn’t as trusting, making for some intense moments. The story itself is dark and there’s little humor throughout it but I think the film doesn’t need it. It feels dark and desperate and humor would only alleviate the tension that the story was so masterfully building up. Not only because you’re asking yourself; “will she survive?”, but also “will she kill them all?”.
Because the characters aren’t all the most individual the actors of the piece don’t have much room to stretch their skills. For what they’re given, though, it isn’t half bad. The obvious star of the piece is Sharni Vinson who plays Erin, the main character of the film. She’s tough, smart, and get’s enough moments in the eye of the camera for you to see that Erin herself is going through a massive thought process as everything happens. There are moments where you can see she’s scared but she keeps going, and others where she has no remorse for killing the assholes who are killing off her boyfriend’s family bit by bit. She’s easy to like and easy to cheer for. At the end of the film, when she learns her boyfriend is one of the masterminds of the whole thing, it’s heart crushing to watch her. The last ray of sunshine Erin had for surviving just disappeared and for a moment you really didn’t know what she’d do. The other actor who stood out the most didn’t have as much screen time or really all that much to do, and that actor was Joe Swanberg as Drake. He has without a doubt the most emotional moment in the movie as his brother has to stab him multiple times to kill him. The heartbreak you see in Drake’s face makes the scene the heaviest and saddest of the entire film. The rest of the actors do well for what they’re given but no other performances really stood out. They were all kill-fodder for either Erin or the masked killers.
The film itself felt very alive. The camera was constantly moving and the colors were vibrant and beautiful. The frame itself was sharp and clean and it led to moments of terror and some extremely well shot frames. There were moments where I let out an audible “wow” because of how something was framed, like the moment where the mother is killed. The frame is wide and the room is dark lit. There was no sound cue, no nothing. The mother was laying on top of the bed crying and down at the bottom of the frame, under the bed, a hand slowly stretched out and put its palm on the ground. The moment was silent except for the mothers crying and the whole thing was a perfect example of how to build tension without jump scares. The film has a few jump scares, but most of them are right at the beginning of the movie and they act as fake outs. The director uses them to make you think you’re watching one movie to put you on edge even more.
You’re Next is a good compliment to the slasher genre. By flipping the template on its head my expectations of what WOULD happen in the film didn’t happen, and I got genuinely surprised by Erin’s effectiveness as the true slasher. It’s well directed, tension filled, and there are some gory and creative deaths for the fan out there hoping to witness some more effects. Because as much as the genre may change, one thing will always stay the same; the over the top, gory, and strange kills. If you’re looking for a good flick that takes an already fantastic genre and turns it on its heel, this is the film for you.
Have you seen You’re Next? What’s your favorite film in the slasher genre?
If you’ve got a horror movie you’d love to see me review, leave it in the comments and I’ll make sure to add it to the list! As always, I’ll see you at the next review. Stay scary, everyone!