A long-disjointed and supremely dysfunctional family gathers for a happy reunion…at least, that was the plan. Three bickering brothers, their whacked out sister, their parents and all their significant others convene at the family estate for a weekend of smiles, memories and bitter arguments. Unfortunately a group of sadistic killers are operating in the area that same weekend. Having already viciously murdered their neighbor, these animal-masked maniacs set their sights on the reunited family. Who are these killers? What do they want? Who will be the next to die?
Much like the bloody signature of the killers in the film, the writing was on the wall for home invasion horror. These films have been taking themselves far too seriously for far too long. Despite the existence of the Saw franchise, which actually got sillier and sillier in its depravity as it progressed, mainstream audiences are more interested in entertainment than extremity. Horror movies are supposed to be fun, goddammit! You’re Next happily drives the spike into the head of home invasion horror to the ghoulish glee of its roaring audience. It is a pitch-black dark comedy that delivers as many laughs as it does a body count.
You’re Next is something akin to the most twisted game of Clue ever played by the inmates of an asylum for the criminally insane. All antagonists and set pieces conspire to rid any given character of their cumbersome vital signs. You’re Next is a carnival ride of carnage. The script values human life the way Sid from Toy Story values action figures; people die horribly, but also hilariously. The kills are well-staged, wickedly ingenious and wonderfully brutal. The theater full of horrorphiles watching You’re Nextduring Fantastic Fest was transformed into the Roman Coliseum as our thunderous, bloodthirsty approval could be heard from the next county.
Sharni Vinson absolutely steals this movie. Was I as skeptical as everyone else when I heard the star of Step Up 3D would be a central character in You’re Next? Of course. But Sharni enters her first frame as lovely and charming as any classic horror heroine and instantly wins our hearts. But the film finds its true identity when she almost immediately begins kicking biblical amounts of ass and taking a phone book’s worth of names. Vinson redefines the concept of the “final girl;” carving out the new archetype in flesh with a dull kitchen knife and pummelling the question of sexism in horror to a bloody pulp. If we don’t see her in more horror films henceforth, horror is doing something wrong.
Other standouts in the cast include the legendary, the incomparable, the iconic Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, From Beyond, Chopping Mall) as the matriarch of this bizarre family. She retains that captivating beauty for which the twelve-year-old versions of us fell in love with her, but she is also impossibly sweet and vulnerable to the point that we hate even conceiving of the idea that she may become a victim. Fantastic Fest mainstay AJ Bowen turns in yet another organically captivating performance and even House of the Devil director Ti West proves solid as an actor.
By the time the curtain closes on You’re Next, it is readily apparent that this is the best horror film of the year. More to the point, this was among my favorite movies of the year in any genre. You’re Next is as clever as it is endlessly entertaining. Writer Simon Barrett’s previous, more character-driven work (such as Fantastic Fest alum A Horrible Way to Die) greatly informs You’re Next in that we are given characters whose survival we root for even as we lust after the next great decapitation or evisceration. Director Adam Wingard strikes exactly the right tone with the performances he elicits from these characters. No two ways about it, You’re Next is a blood-soaked, sinisterly funny triumph.
Even if Lionsgate hadn’t snatched up the rights to You’re Next, even if they hadn’t pulled the second screening, thereby instantly augmenting its already solidified status as the most anticipated movie of the fest, even if Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard and A.J. Bowen weren’t established festival favorites, this film still would have knocked us for a loop. To that end, the studio would be absolutely and irreconcilably out of their minds not to release this in theaters as they claim they plan to do next fall. I would beseech them not to waiver on this plan and allow the film to languish on a shelf or suffer the purgatory of direct-to-video release. This is a film that not only demands to be seen in theaters, but will turn tear the roof off of that theater by the end of reel one.