★ (out of 5 stars)
Home-invasion horrors have been all the rage, literally, over the last few years, as each new one has tried to outdo the previous with violence, anger, depravity and, in some cases, originality. To its credit, You’re Next tries to introduce the latter to the tired genre by tossing in twists, but, regrettably, the film falls flat on its face as many times as its murdered characters and ends up as a barbaric waste of time, lacking any genuine scares or unique qualities.
I’ll relay as much of the story as I can without ruining the movie more than the filmmakers already have, although I doubt the film’s fans will read this review – or read much of anything. That’s especially true for the gentleman sitting behind me at the preview screening who twice shouted “you dumb bitch” at the screen. After his second outburst, I was convinced he had just stepped out of a Tennessee Williams play and was prepared to tell him so, before realizing the reference might be lost on him, and I might be subjecting myself to physical harm, considering he was wearing what appeared to be a blood-stained wifebeater. On the other hand, it was nice of the promoters to invite the movie’s real-life inspiration to the screening. But I digress.
You’re Next, which premiered at festivals in 2011 and is just now getting a wide release, is the tale of four adults, and their significant others, who visit their wealthy parents at their secluded country mansion to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary. It’s the perfect occasion to renew family ties until it becomes clear that everyone is being stalked by intruders bent on killing them with crossbows.
If the story ended there, it would be just another demented societal comment, like The Strangers, which, despite its lack of a twist, was a slightly better film than this. But You’re Next goes for a twist – two actually – and crumbles under the weight of its own contrivance, bad writing and predictability. Sure, maybe those twists haven’t been used in this type of film in the last few years, but any filmgoer or reader of mystery novels with a high school education has seen them countless times before.
The actors – particularly Sharni Vinson, as Erin, who becomes the protagonist by being the only one able to fight back – do the best they can, but it’s simply too difficult to overcome lines like “Why would anyone do this?” “I have an arrow in my back,” “Would you just die already?” “We’re all gonna die” and the vastly different “We’re all gonna fucking die,” which turn the film from thriller to puerile comedy.
Director Adam Wingard has gained attention as a genre up-and-comer, but with his fifth feature, he’s unable to raise Simon Barrett’s screenplay above the level of trash. He even makes it worse by introducing abysmal handheld camera and problems of focus, creating a fun ride for gore groupies but a film that discriminating viewers will find worthless and repugnant.