Adam Wingard’s You’re Next begins with the obligatory “let’s show some boobs than kill some people who won’t really figure into the plot” scene and follows that up with the usual gathering of the victims before the slaughter begins, but the movie plays with these moments in a way that shows it has more on its mind than parading new and interesting ways to maul the human body.
For starters, the opening scene sets up a running gag that manages to work its way to the closing credits. It’s one of those earworms that you won’t be able to get out of your brain for at least a few hours after seeing the movie.
But it’s the dinner party where the movie really shows what it’s up to. You’re Next is about a family getting together to celebrate the 35th wedding anniversary of the parents. It’s a large mansion in the woods, and just about every room has some sort of floor-to-ceiling window, making it ideal for the sort of attack that’s about to take place.
Just before arrows begin flying through the windows and wire is strategically stretched outside of one of the doors, the family sits at dinner and we discover one of the guests (a boyfriend of the daughter) is a documentarian. At first, the other members of the family are impressed that a filmmaker is at their table. But then everyone begins to lose interest once they realize that his movies have only been shown at a couple of underground film festivals (one of them even asks if an “underground festival” actually takes place underground.)
And then the arguing begins. Family secrets begins to emerge and old wounds are reopened. But it’s the style of hostile discourse on display that’s interesting; this isn’t the type of dialogue we usually hear in movies like this. And the energy of the movie begins to change; we’re expecting a horror movie and all of a sudden, a comedy of manners breaks out. It’s almost as if we’ve stepped into a Noah Baumbach movie.
But then people start to die and blood begins to flow and You’re Next becomes the home invasion horror fest we’ve been promised. And while it references other horror movies and retains a knowing and intelligent sense of humor about itself, it never becomes as self-referential as the Scream movies, nor does it go full meta like The Cabin in the Woods.
Wingard not only delivers some unexpected laughs, but he also delivers a couple of really good scares. Because he is so obviously playing with certain horror-genre tropes, you never quite know where he’s going to take them, or how he’s going to present them. This is not like The Conjuring, where director James Wan, while very well executed, gave you the exact type of horror movie moments you’ve seen over and over again without any creative embellishment; if you’ve seen more than a few horror movies, you could almost count out the beats just before the boo! moments in The Conjuring, which greatly reduced the impact of the thrills.
And if you’re a gore hound (like yours truly), You’re Next doesn’t disappoint. There are a couple of horrific gags that are just so gruesomely wonderful. One of the characters gets it with an appliance in a way I’ve never seen before and just thinking about it still brings an evil smile to my face.
You’re Next is an unexpectedly entertaining horror movie. In terms of recent movies in a similar vein, it’s not quite as memorable as the hardcore, stripped-down home invasion classic from 2008, The Strangers. And it’s not as ambitious as The Cabin in the Woods. But it’s a good time at the movies, and funnier than many of the “comedies” released this summer. Go have a couple of sick laughs, and watch out for that front door.Follow @filmbyfelix