Home invasion films are nothing new and as a result it takes some ingenuity to make an individual effort stand out for the crowd and feel different. That’s precisely what director Adam Wingard has done with You’re Next, both a moderately scary and somewhat humorous entry into the genre. The difference between this film and others? A survivor is placed in house that gets invaded, meaning at least one person fights back against the invaders. This leads to a more action-packed and funnier picture than most other home invasion films you’ll see.
The setup is simple and not a whole lot of time is wasted on it. A group of people, all of whom are either family or the spouses of family, gather in a vacation home for reasons that I can’t remember and aren’t important. There are several of them — far too many to keep track of. The family isn’t particularly close and you can tell off the bat that there’s significant tension between a few of the members. At dinner, a crossbow arrow kills one of them. So begins the invasion. People wearing animal masks begin picking off those in the house one by one.
The wild card is Erin (Sharni Vinson), who grew up in Australia with her uncle who prepared her for various disasters. Apparently a home invasion was one of those. She has no problem brutally murdering the potential killers, setting up traps, or withstanding a surprising amount of punishment. In Erin we have a strong female lead in a horror movie who doesn’t abide by the genre’s tropes. How rare (and awesome) is that?
It turns out to be a game-changer. Even though the reason that Erin is so capable of handling herself is kind of contrived and redundant, simply introducing her character into an otherwise predictable structure allows everything to play out differently. It also introduces an element of humor to the mix. The killers in horror movies generally only look smart because the people they’re after are incredibly stupid. Erin isn’t stupid and it goes to highlight how unintelligent horror villains are if anything deviates from the plan.
There are other moments of black comedy, particularly in the You’re Next‘s second half. Horror-comedies often struggle to find the right balance when it comes to mixing both genres, but this is a film that gets it correct. Excessively brutal kills to the point of hilarity and a few great lines make up much of the humor. There are also jump scares, a haunting score, and the realization that while Erin is pretty good at defending the house, she’s not invincible; there is still a sense of danger.
You’re also unlikely to guess who is inevitably behind it all, although saying that now will probably make you guess and possibly get it right when you wind up watching You’re Next. It’s difficult to figure out because characters are pretty bland and most of the acting is pretty poor. Everyone could be playing everyone else if they just switched names, and that means you can’t figure out potential motivations or justification for the murders. I’ll just tell you that it’s not a random attack.
Filing the cast with actors who aren’t particularly well-known means you’ll also be playing the guessing game called “Who will make it to the end?” I don’t think you’ll guess right. This is a gory film with a lot of deaths. The violence is sometimes over the top, with more blood used here than in most films. And without a couple of familiar faces you’re left to wonder if any of them will survive — and if any of them are “good.” I mean, Erin doesn’t react with shock when the people around her are getting slaughtered; it’s possible she’s behind the killings.
It’s possible that some people won’t feel like You’re Next is terribly original. Even in the most generic of home invasion movies, someone inevitably fights back and gets in a kill or two. It’s never a complete slaughterhouse. But they don’t do it in the same way it happens here. It doesn’t become a question of “who’s hunting whom?” in this films, while it does here. Having a lead this credible is a rarity and makes a huge difference.
You’re Next is an incredibly successful home invasion film that works both as horror and comedy, as long as you’re okay at laughing at some somewhat dark material. It has a strong lead, some decent scares, a good deal of humor, and more fake blood than you can shake a stick at. Its twists are surprising — at least in terms of the who, not the what — and it manages the tough balancing act when mixing genres. This is a fun and scary movie, and I recommend giving it a look.