“You’re Next” is the most immersive horror film in some time. This is important to note because to truly scare an audience, a horror film needs to draw them into its proceedings and do the best it can to make them forget that they’re merely watching a movie. In its attempt to do just that, the film circumvents the usual opening credits all other movies abide by. It doesn’t even flash a title card, instead opting to cleverly blend its title with the events at hand, through the words written in blood across two full body windows. I hesitate to hail this as the newest home invasion/slasher masterpiece because it’s not on par with many that have come before, but it nevertheless nails the one key ingredient it needs: complete and total immersion.
The movie begins simply enough. A family is getting together to celebrate the parent’s thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. The mother and father have yet to meet any of their children’s significant others, so to help celebrate, they’re all coming along. The evening begins with innocent jokes and petty quarrels, not unlike many families get-togethers, but during dinner, something crazy happens. As one of their daughter’s boyfriends walks towards a window, an arrow comes crashing through, killing him. There are mysterious masked people outside and they’re trying to kill them for unknown reasons, so the family bonds together and tries to come up with a plan for survival, which, of course, will be frivolous for most of them.
The largest issue with the majority of horror movies these days is this: if they even manage to instill fear at all, they can almost never keep it up. The scariest movies at their starts can quickly become dull by their ends because all their cards have been shown and their tricks start repeating. As usual with these things, “You’re Next” fails to keep suspense high throughout, particularly once the invaders get more screen time, but there’s an interesting turn of events that make this shift unique.
As far back as masked killer movies go, dating all the way back to John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece, “Halloween,” the female protagonists were hapless victims, ones of circumstance that didn’t so much fight the monsters as they did run away from them. Sure, late movie events typically led to them overcoming the monster, but their timidity was rarely downplayed. After all, they were fragile, innocent women. Such is not the case with “You’re Next.” The protagonist here, played wonderfully by Sharni Vinson, is strong, intelligent, confident and she makes good decisions. She’s one of the strongest female protagonists to ever grace a horror movie and it’s more than welcome. If you’re the type of girl who has been longing for a female character that makes the males onscreen look like wimps and doesn’t annoy with relentless whimpers and screams, you’re going to love her.
In fact, it’s her prowess that gives the film its edge and makes the less frightening back portions nevertheless exciting. Without going into too much detail, it’s safe to say that the hunters suddenly become the hunted, the film slowly shifting to their perspective over time, and it’s them who are walking slowly and cautiously towards their potential demise. If the film stumbles at all with its heroic female lead, it’s when it gives a flimsy reason for her skills and smarts, something along the lines of growing up on a survivalist compound with a crazy dad who readied her for the end of the world. Such an explanation is unnecessary; why can’t the strong female protagonist be cunning and intelligent simply because she’s a strong female?
Even with such a senseless stumble, the movie itself is solid all around. While the back half forges its own path through the tired home invasion/slasher subgenre, the first half plays out like a slick cross between “Halloween” and the underrated 2008 gem, “The Strangers.” The monsters are shown in the background and through reflections while jump scares don’t signal the end of a fright, but instead are followed by subtler, creepier, tone setting shots that truly get under the skin. That’s not to say this movie is a nightmare-producing scare fest—few are—but it sets out to do something and it does it well. If you’re a horror fan, you need to see “You’re Next.”
You’re Next receives 4/5