By Shane M. Dallmann
Whoa… it’s happened again. We may be only two-thirds through the year, but I’m sorely tempted to call “winner.”
Despite the familiar cry of the title, YOU’RE NEXT! has nothing to do with body snatchers… it’s something the movie’s antagonists like to scrawl on windows and walls for no particular reason but to inspire a title. Fair enough–the title IS plenty evocative.
(And if you’ll forgive my second gratuitous reference to Mick LaSalle in a row, when a man who has as much contempt for “slasher” films as he does–even referring to the genre as the “lowliest” in his review of this very film–grudgingly admits that this is “one of the better ones,” you know damn well it’s going to be more than just “pretty good.”)
So. You’ve seen the trailers, I’m sure. Mom and Dad invite the family to their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary celebration. Arriving on schedule are their three sons, their daughter, and their respective spouses and significant others. They don’t know (well, SOMEONE knows) that their only neighbors in their remote, woodsy abode were hacked to death during the prologue.
Well, no sooner do they say grace around the table than the sibling rivalry barbs start flying. And then the first crossbow bolt hits. And the stalkers in the white animal masks aren’t anywhere near done with the family.
(By the way, this was actually filmed in 2011, so let’s drop any comparisons to a certain creepy pro-wrestling family that also likes to wear similar masks.)
I’d tell you more about this collection of characters, but I won’t, because the only problem I had (or seemed to have) with YOU’RE NEXT! was that it was all too obvious to me what was happening and who was behind it, and if I describe the dynamics here, you’ll be on that same path in no time. Now, mind you, I didn’t actually tell you whether or not I was right, did I? But thankfully, that wasn’t the point… even when this film plays its plot cards, we have a LOT more to deal with.
So I’ll only mention three characters. Yes, Ti West shows up as an “underground filmmaker” because his friends Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard wrote and directed this movie, respectively. Far more significant for an old-timer like me is the presence of Barbara Crampton as the matriarch. I won’t say that I “grew up” with her because I was already 20 by the time RE-ANIMATOR came out, but just as I admired Elisabeth Shue in LINK back in the day only to eventually see her play mother to Jennifer Lawrence in the under-rated HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET, I’m equally pleased to see Ms. Crampton mature gracefully into roles like these.
And finally? Australian discovery Sharni Vinson OWNS this movie. You’ll see.
The team of Wingard and Barrett is relatively new to my experience: I never did see A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE; I liked some of their work in V/H/S more than their other contributions; and their “Q” segment in THE ABCS OF DEATH was quite amusing. So this was my first solid, feature-length exposure to their work and I was profoundly impressed. I’ve mentioned more than once that I’ve been happy to see the genre finally get over the “post-SCREAM” kick and take even the most basic stories seriously again… to play them as if they were being played for the first time. Now, given the actual two-year vintage of YOU’RE NEXT!, I’m tempted to think that this transition in attitude started somewhere around here.
The movie is, indeed, played for straight-out shocks with nobody taking time out to remember how things went in other movies. Nevertheless, we’re still given such 80’s seasonings as some brief nudity (something the SCREAM films constantly talked about but never actually delivered): I was about to call it ‘gratuitous’ but changed my mind on reflection because it primes the viewer to fear something genuinely perverse at a later point in the film.
And violent? You thought the KICK-ASS movies or THE PURGE were violent? You’re in for a world of hurt… the vicious, bone-cracking, flesh-tearing mayhem is keyed to make you personally feel every bit of it vicariously. If this WERE still the 1980s? We’d be watching a cut of this film that someone put through a paper shredder on the big screen and we’d be watching THIS cut on a bootleg tape. I haven’t wondered about the limits of the “R” rating for quite a while, but I can’t begin to imagine how an “unrated” cut of YOU’RE NEXT! could be stronger.
Not until the film reaches its final act is the effect sealed with Carpenter-esque electronica on the soundtrack; unexpected (but well-timed) laughter; and even permission to “enjoy” some of the goings-on (I guess we STILL haven’t exhausted the possibilities of kitchen appliances after all). And after all that? You’re not going to see a better ending this year. Don’t even look for one. That doesn’t happen.
I’ve seen it. You’re next.