When dealing with film festival features, particularly ones that have made the rounds, it’s quite hard to avoid getting caught up in either the hype, or the general dismissal, of a feature film. And that’s talking your run of the mill festival film, and not at all an immensely hyped genre picture like Adam Wingard’s much talked about darling, You’re Next.
After being nabbed up by Lionsgate prior to its Fantastic Fest screening all the way back in 2011, the film was yanked from subsequent screenings following its premiere, only to roll out at Toronto, and since it has been doing nothing but collecting dust on the distributor’s shelf.
It has made its triumphant return to Austin for the near complete SXSW Film Festival, and here’s to hoping we’ll be seeing this film arrive in theaters sooner, rather than later, because while it’s problematic, it’s going to be one of this year’s most buzzed about horror films.
Directed by Adam Wingard (best known for his work on things like Autoerotic) and written by Simon Barrett, the film follows the story of a family who, during a perfectly nice get together over dinner, are accosted by mysterious killers in animal masks. A black comedy in the body of a home invasion/revenge thriller, You’re Next doesn’t break new ground, but what it does do is add enough humor and style to an otherwise standard thriller, making this a flawed but entertaining exercise in terror.
The star here is Barrett’s script. A true gem of black comedy, the film, through the words laid out by the writer, is able to have the viewer laughing in the aisles at one moment only to be clinching the arm rest the very next beat. Almost devoid of anything resembling a true scary moment, You’re Next survives, and thrives, on its skill with tension and adding to that tension through a devilishly funny screenplay.
Leading the way performance wise is Sharni Vinson, and she is the reason to truly see this film. With things begin to go south, she takes the lead, and the mix of true beauty and innocence as well as utter kick assery is really something. Much more than a pretty face, Vinson carries this film with a physicality and a sense of comedic timing that makes her performance one of the better turns to be found in a genre film in quite some time. AJ Bowen plays her boyfriend and former teacher, and he delivers a monologue near the end of the film that may be the best scene in the entire film, and directors Ti West and Joe Swanberg show up in cameo roles and have an interchange that is easily a contender for that same award.
However, visually, the film is a tad underwhelming. The design of our baddies is interesting (the masks are admittedly creepy), but while the film concludes with a couple of great (and perfectly set up) kills, the film doesn’t have much in the way of real style. A standard slasher, the film is perfectly entertaining and ultimately thrilling, but it doesn’t feature as much life and vitality as the brilliant script that it portrays.
Overall, while this will hit the spot for many genre hounds looking for a blend of briskly paced comedy and some solid thrills, general horror admirers may be left feeling quite cold. With a solid script and some really engaging performances, You’re Next has the chops to be one of the most enjoyable and re-watchable horror films of the past few years. Too bad the direction couldn’t quite keep up.