Imagine a slasher movie with no sluts, virgins, jocks, stoners or token black guys. No 35 year olds playing high schoolers and no Jamie Lee Curtis and her stool comforting yogurt. Normally, a film like this could not exist. These defining qualities are, in essence, what make a slasher a slasher. Removing these horror staples is like removing Paula Deen from the Food Network. What’s that? Paula Deen is racist and getting rid of her leaves more room for Rachael Ray to make me prematurely ejaculate in my pants? Well, then I guess it was a good idea after all. In a genre consisting almost entirely of remakes, sequels and carbon copies of carbon copies, You’re Next manages find its footing and stand above the pack in terms of true originality.
For starters, our backdrop is the easily terrifying setting in cinematic history: a family reunion. Gathering together with your relatives is simply one of the most uncomfortable, horrible nightmares a human being can ever experience experience. Your grandfather is drunk and talking about black people, there are little kids running around screaming at the top of their lungs and the dog got scared and pissed everywhere. I still have Vietnam flashbacks to my family’s 1995 Thanksgiving.
In You’re Next, a wholesome family, the Davidson Clan, sits around their dinner table sharing a warm meal. They talk about their jobs and introduce their significant others. They playfully bicker like most relatives tend to do. But, before anyone has a chance to try mom’s squash casserole, the family is attacked by a trio of mysterious, animal-mask-wearing psychopaths. The home invaders kill a dude and kind of ruin dinner. In my family, dinner only ends after my uncle mentions that 9/11 was an inside job.
From then on, mayhem and confusion take over as various Davidsons get picked off one by one. The family must ban together if they wish to survive! But they don’t! They each say “Fuck all y’all” to each other and split up like a bunch of morons because—remember—this is still a slasher.
I did kind of find it weird that nobody cared when their family members were being brutally slaughtered in front of them. Everyone was just kinda like, “Boy, that sure was weird. Bood thing the hot Australian chick wasn’t harmed.” The hot Australian chick in question was played by the essentially unknown actress Sharni Vinson—not to be confused with “Sharty Vincent”, the kid from middle school you used to make fun of because he shit his pants that one time.
At one point, she rigs the house with murderous booby traps like some sort of R-rated Home Alone sequel, assuming the Wet Bandits slashed Buzz’s throat and chopped Fuller into little pieces with an axe.
Vinson's character is a refreshing divergence from the typical Helpless Chick Who Cries Constantly And Doesn’t Know How Car Keys Work. Instead, she was raised in a survivalist camp while growing up. It's there that she learned to fend for herself, improvise medical treatment and, I assume, fend off Mad Max-esque bandit raiders. She’s pretty much got her master’s degree in surviving a horror movie, with a minor in being a dime piece.
At one point, she rigs the house with murderous booby traps like some sort of R-rated Home Alone sequel, assuming the Wet Bandits slashed Buzz’s throat and chopped Fuller into little pieces with an axe. There’s legit even an identical, no less hilarious scene where one of the intruders steps on fucking nail.
Overall, I was pretty impressed with the no-name ensemble cast—at least by low-budget slasher standards. Two of the actors, Joe Swanberg and Ti West, are real life horror movie directors and they make reference to this in the film. Swanberg’s character sarcastically belittles West’s because of the character’s choice to direct films as a career, telling him that he should maybe try commercials instead. These two actors, along with You're Next's director, Adam Wingard, each directed a segment in the horror anthology, V/H/S in 2012 for those of you keeping score at home.
The most rewarding part of the film, in my opinion, was the reoccurring song, “Looking For The Magic” by The Dwight Twilley Band. This musical choice, in a way, epitomizes the unique style and composition of this unusual horror masterpiece.
Wingard is conscious of the type of film he's directing. He's aware of all of the horror films that have come before, but does not concede to copying them—a student of the genre, he'd rather improve than defile. Sure, You're Next might have a little bit of The Strangers and Funny Games sprinkled in, but these nods never overpower a film with true character and artistic independence.
Four Pins Rating: 7.5/10 Sharty Vincents
Matt Rimer is a writer living in Boston. Follow him on Twitter here.