With Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, AJ Bowen, Barbara Crampton, Wendy Glenn. Written by Simon Barrett. Directed by Adam Wingard. Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity. 96 minutes.
A bunch of people gather at a remote home for what we think is a social event but soon they start getting murdered. Haven’t we seen this before? Indeed, we’ve seen it many times. Agatha Christie used that as the plot for Ten Little Indians (filmed as “And Then There Were None” way back in 1945) and it’s been a horror movie staple in recent years. Whether it is murder or simply horrific violence, there’s something about being attacked in what you think is a safe haven that can be truly creepy. Or, it can make for another pedestrian movie where cheap thrills substitute for thought.
That’s what makes YOU’RE NEXT so surprising. It’s a down-and-dirty thriller with a trio of masked killers picking off members of the Davison family and their guests for no discernible reason. They’ve gathered to celebrate the wedding anniversary of Paul and Aubrey (Rob Moran, Barbara Crampton). Their adult children and significant others are an eclectic crew, and at first you think you’re watching one of those awful movies we see each year of dysfunctional families gathering for the holidays.
Then a crossbow takes out one of the guests, and the game is on. Of course, a game is exactly what it is for the viewer. The film features plenty of bloody violence and twisted behavior but it spurns the sadism of the “Saw” movies where reveling in the suffering of others was the whole point. Here we get the shock of each murder and then try to solve the real mystery: why is this happening and who is responsible? Why were the distant next door neighbors killed in the opening prologue? Where is this all going?
There’s something else added to the mix. The victims aren’t all dying according to plan. In fact, one of them proves to be able to get one step ahead of the killers, and that turns this movie into something quite different. This review is being purposely vague about plot and character details so the surprise twists will actually surprise. Although the bloody murders will provide the thrills and chills for those going for the horror, the plot keeps twisting and turning right up to the very end. This may be a gory film, but it is not a stupid one.
Credit must be given to the team of director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett. These are two up-and-coming horror filmmakers to watch. They contributed to the not-very-good “V/H/S” and the apparently much better “V/H/S 2” (not yet seen by this reviewer), and have collaborated on several other movies. Here they show clear control of the script, the camera, and the actors, and the result is a movie that could have been just another schlock horror movie in the DVD cutout bin and instead turns out to be a solidly entertaining thriller.
“You’re Next” is deservedly rated R for its violence, so be warned. It’s not for the squeamish. Fortunately, it wasn’t made by or for idiots either.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first novel, Shh! It’s A Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide has just been released. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.