You’re Next is, quite possibly, this year’s most hyped horror film. Lion’s Gate has been plastering posters all over Hollywood. They’ve been hyping and touting the film as The Next Big Thing in the horror world for who knows how long. Those damn animal masks are everywhere. Unfortunately, the films poorly constructed first act and muddled third act prevent it from being the stellar horror innovator that we’ve all been promised.
The narrative revolves around an affluent family’s large estate out in the middle of the American countryside. Paul Davidson (Rob Moran), a retired military contractor, and his wife Aubrey have arranged a family reunion to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately for the familial occupants of the mansion, they’re subjected to a home invasion by men clad in military garb and animal masks.
The visual iconography that the film establishes is quite impressive. There’s something about seeing a man in combat boots, wielding an axe, and wearing a fox mask. It could be really scary. Unfortunately, it’s not really. It’s simply creepy.
The film has the potential to be great. You can feel the intentions of director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barret. The film draws upon many really fun genre tropes and subverts them wonderfully. However, the first act of the film takes forever to go anywhere. The characters are so loosely defined that they might as well be human sized paper dolls.
The protagonist of the film, Erin, played by Sharni Vinson, is a pleasant diversion from the traditional plot-armored survivor girl. She’s actually competent, smart, and capable. As opposed to the traditional Survivor Girl who just seems to fall ass backwards into ‘oh shit. Thank christ I survived that crazy-ass home invasion/alien invasion/deranged maniac/half-human half-robot murder machine/ whatever. Sharni Vinson is a charismatic lead and really carries the movie. She really does look like she could be kicking ass and taking names.
The third act of the film has problems as well. It’s muddled and repetitive. The narrative feels like it’s attempting to eat up time to reach the 90 minute mark in places. The film’s score also goes in some interesting directions that are then abandoned abruptly. During the third act a synthesizer rift, the the fashion of John Carpenter, is introduced and serves as an attempted pulse pounding backbone to the events that are transpiring. However, whenever the narrative cuts outside the theme is abandoned. It’s jarring and doesn’t feel purposeful.
Overall, You’re Next leaves the view with a mixed bag of emotions. There’s a lot to like. There’s also a lot that doesn’t quite work. The film’s laboriously slow first act and its jumbled third act drag down the brilliance in the second act. The structure issues, coupled with the very sparse character motivations and details drag the film down.
You’re Next has been touted as the next great cult horror movie. It isn’t. It’s fun, it has some good ideas, and while you’re watching the flick you can feel the film the filmmakers wanted to make, but just couldn’t quite accomplish. This film is perfect for genre buffs and horror fans. There’s enough meat on the bones to satisfy a hardcore horror fan. As far as the casual movie goer is concerned? This film will probably disappoint.
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