Sharni Vinson - Erin
Nicholas Tucci - Felix Davison
Wendy Glenn - Zee
A.J. Bowen - Crispian Davison
Joe Swanberg - Drake Davison
Barbara Crampton - Aubrey Davison
Rob Moran - Paul Davison
Margaret Laney - Kelly
Amy Seimetz - Aimee Davison
Ti West - Tariq
Genre - Horror/Home Invasion
Running Time - 95 Minutes
Paul (Rob Moran) and Aubrey Davison (Barbara Crampton) are having their 35th wedding anniversary at a isolated mansion in the country. The couple have invited their four grown children - Drake (Joe Swanberg), Crispian (A.J. Bowen), Aimee (Amy Seimetz), and Felix (Nicholas Tucci) - and their loved ones to celebrate the event with them. However, the Davison family are dysfunctional and pretty much bicker and argue the moment they all gather together at the dinner table. However, it stops when Aimee's boyfriend (Ti West) is shot through the window with an arrow to the head. Confused and scared, the family and loved ones encounter a trio of masked killers [a lamb, a tiger, and a fox] who trap them inside the mansion to kill them all one-by-one. While many of them argue what's the best plan for survival, Crispian's former student and now girlfriend, Erin (Sharni Vinson), may be the family's secret weapon in making sure most of them come out of this situation alive.
YOU'RE NEXT, a film that's been waiting for a worldwide release since 2011, is probably the best home invasion film I've seen in quite a while. It's great when the trailers don't give you too much that spoil the experience for you, as YOU'RE NEXT is a film people ought to go into without much knowledge about it. It's also a hard film to really review in detail, since I would be giving away certain plot devices that lead into the twist at the end. So I'm gonna make this review as short and to the point as possible.
I did enjoy the screenplay by Simon Barrett. There was humor that the trailer doesn't really show, and at times YOU'RE NEXT tries to be somewhat a horror-comedy. Not all the humor works, but I did laugh a few times at the dialogue and how the characters handled themselves through the terrifying situation.
But Barrett has to be applauded for writing characters that felt real. What I mean is that not everyone falls into the horror stereotype. While some of the characters react stupidly, like running away from the group to save themselves, they aren't stupid people. Most of them actually take the time to figure out the situation through their confusion, trying to come up with ways to maximize their potential survival. Not all the plans work, obviously, but at least these characters are smart enough to stop panicking and analyze what's going on. That's not to say that the characters are all that likeable. In fact, maybe three of them come across as people you would root for, while the others you would care less if they lived or not. But I actually liked that, since it made the situation realistic. These characters have issues with each other and it sometimes works against them here. Not everyone in a group is going to be someone you like. You're going to have a jerk or two in there - one that will probably try and cost you your life in order to save theirs. It's just human nature, unfortunately. But it's no surprise that the smartest, more active one in the group is the one who survives the longest. And this person is treated like a total badass, which I loved. I kept rooting for this person because he/she would have handled things like I would. So Barrett did write some great characters in here, who all feel different from the other, and have their reasons as to why they behave the way they do.
I also found the twist believable as well. YOU'RE NEXT starts out kind of slow, but it's done to set up the dynamics of the situation and the characters involved. And because of this build up, it makes the mystery of the masked killers feel genuine. Unlike THE STRANGERS, where the characters doing the invading had no clear motivation [which made things creepier, to be honest], the masked killers in YOU'RE NEXT are clearly here for a specific reason. And by the end of it, you realize that something like this is probably possible in reality. I won't spoil the twist, but I liked it and thought it added to some humorous moments once it was revealed right before the final act.
Honestly, I think the best part of YOU'RE NEXT is just the feeling that anyone could invade our own personal lives in such a violent manner. There's a reason why these home invasion films work as well as they usually do - it plays on our fears of privacy and safety. If this sort of thing ever happened to me, I'd probably act like some of these characters as well. Will my fear take over? Will I be able to come up with some sort of plan that could help me live a while longer? Can I stop these invaders before they stop me? This situation has happened and will happen again. I'm glad some of these characters actually took the time to breathe and make decisions that were more right than wrong. That human instinct of "fight or flight" will always kick in, but I'm hoping I'll be a fighter like a certain character instead of fleeing like some of the others.
YOU'RE NEXT is a pretty brutal film, but it's not shockingly gory. And I'm kind of glad it turned out that way. I don't need to see guts and tons of blood to make me feel tense about what I'm watching. The violence in the film does that plenty. And we get a ton of people attacking with weapons, such as arrows, knives, cleavers, and blunt objects that result in people getting bludgeoned to death. We also get a booby trap to a door that results in an axe to the face. I think the best violent moment was towards the end, where one of the characters battles two killers in the kitchen of the house. YOU'RE NEXT is a thrilling survival film, especially during the last half of the movie. I was definitely cheering in my seat.
My only major gripe with YOU'RE NEXT would be with the camera work by Adam Wingard. I thought his direction was fine. The shot scales and compositions were good. The editing was tight. The jump scares were pretty effective, especially with those creepy animal masks. YOU'RE NEXT is a low budget film, but I thought the way the setting was used and how the picture looked was great. There are definite tense and suspenseful moments that raise your blood pressure a bit.
However, Wingard LOVES to use the shaky-cam effect to no end. And man, did it bother me. I get that you want to shake the camera during intense situations to create an effect for the audience. But it distracted me more than make me feel something for the scene itself. It got to the point where I kept saying, "I get it. I get it. Can you put the camera on a tripod now?" It was a bit overwhelming for me. Some shaky cam is fine. But watching a movie that looks like it's being filmed during an earthquake isn't a pleasant visual experience. Other than that, I was fine with the rest of the visuals.
The acting was also quite strong. A.J. Bowen is becoming quite the popular horror actor these days, doing very well as Crispian. Director Joe Swanberg is pretty perfect as the prick and judgmental brother, Drake. Nicholas Tucci plays the mysterious Felix well. Rob Moran is one of the better actors as the low-key patriarch, Rob. I really liked his performance, as he kept himself grounded throughout the turmoil. Always a pleasure to see Barbara Crampton in anything, and she was wonderful as the fragile matriarch, Aubrey. But the real star of YOU'RE NEXT is Australian actress Sharni Vinson as Erin. Just a breakthrough performance, as Vinson was super convincing as this intelligent, strong woman who would not let anybody hurt her or the people who could soon be her family. The entire last half of the film belongs to her, as she carries the movie without a struggle. I definitely want to see more of her.
THE FINAL HOWL
YOU'RE NEXT continues a very strong year for horror. It's not perfect, but it comes pretty close as one of the best home invasion films I've seen. Strong performances [especially by Sharni Vinson], very direction, and a smart and sometimes humorous script that highlights the film's intense brutality. While the film probably did make more than its budget back, it's a shame it didn't do better at the box office this weekend. It's a pleasant summer movie surprise that we need more of.