8/29/2013 - A family is massacred one by one in You’re Next, a movie that blends slasher/horror movie cheese and clever moments of dark comedy.
When Paul (Rob Moran) and Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) get to their secluded country mansion, they don’t know what we in the audience know, which is that a machete-wielding killer has just slaughtered their neighbor and his girlfriend. So when Aubrey hears someone upstairs and runs out of the house screaming, we know she has the right idea. But Paul and his son Crispian (AJ Bowen), who shows up as Paul is searching the house, don’t find anything and talk Aubrey back into the house. Crispian and his girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson) are the first to arrive at what we find out is a weekend celebrating Paul and Aubrey’s anniversary. The rest of their grown children and significant others soon follow: oldest son Drake (Joe Swanberg) and his wife Kelly (Sarah Meyers); son Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and his goth-y girlfriend Zee (Wendy Glenn), and daughter Aimee (Amy Seimetz) and her boyfriend Tariq (Ti West).
As you might imagine with a family of four kids of upper-class parents, the relationships between these siblings aren’t perfect. Soon the kids are picking on each other, led by Drake, who seems to make it his life’s mission to needle both his siblings and their girlfriends and boyfriend. He’s at dinner in the middle of tormenting Tariq about being a documentary filmmaker — which seamlessly leads into a fight with Crispian — when the first attack on the family starts. Somewhere, outside the dining room window, someone starts shooting arrows into the family room. One person dies, another one or two are injured and the family races into the foyer. After cellphones prove worthless, the remaining family members decide that one person needs to make a run for the cars to go get help. That plan is less than successful.
The family starts to spread out, this one heading upstairs to rest, that one headed out another part of the house, that one off looking for something to use as weapons. As we know, separating from the group inevitably leads to characters’ finding themselves separated from their heads or vital organs. But, pretty quickly, we start to suspect that other characters know this as well. There are the characters who seem detached — are they in shock or something else? There are the ones who seem to be a little too good at fending off an attack — are they just quick thinkers or have they been in this situation before?
I don’t think it gives anything away to say that the fun of this movie is figuring out who everybody really is. When we first meet the pairs, we get a sense of them as individuals and then as them in relation to their siblings. The killing starts at dinner, but by this point we’ve seen enough of the characters alone and with each other to know that more is going on. There is tension and some kind of difficulty in every relationship here — the ones between boyfriends and girlfriends, between siblings, between each sibling and his or her parents, between the parents themselves. The movie first presents the bare bones of a grade-B horror movie, and then overlays that with prickly family drama/satire and, once the killing starts, goes somewhere else. The killers, dressed all in black, wielding primitive weapons (wouldn’t a gun be easier?) and wearing cheap and creepy animal-face masks, are so generically horror-movie as to be laughable. But then, we start to realize, that’s kind of the point. The movie isn’t a meta satire, like The Cabin in the Woods, but You’re Next is a smarter and in some ways darker horror than you expect from its bargain-bin slasher setup. C+
Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity. Directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett, You’re Next is an hour and 34 minutes long and is distributed by Lionsgate.