Adam Wingard’s “You’re Next”—an old-school style slasher movie—leads you to believe that it’s going to be more clever and innovative than it actually is. In the brisk opening scene a random couple is having sex and then are killed off by maniacs wearing simple plastic animal masks. A very typical opening scene for a slasher film, right? But we accept it and we accept the very standard setup that follows.
A family (mom, dad, three sons, two daughters, along with their significant others) head up to an old creaky mansion, belonging to the parents, out in the middle of the country to spend some time together. Now you don’t have to be a genius to figure out—for the most part-- what’s going to happen next. Based off of the opening scene and the title we know some of these people are going to be killed off by those animal mask wearing maniacs, but again you go along with it because you expect that there will be some kind of clever twist or innovation on the horizon, much in the same way Drew Goddard’s horror/comedy “The Cabin in The Woods” did last year. At this point “You’re Next” is so simple and routine, the characters so thin, that there has to be something more to it…right?
So anyway, not long after the family arrives, those maniacs return and gory mayhem begins. While the family is eating dinner (and while two of the brothers, played by AJ Bowen and Nicholas Tucci, are having a heated argument), arrows start flying through the window, killing one of the significant others. From there, the score by Mads Heldtberg, Jasper Justice Lee and Kyle McKinnon (which is a combination of classic horror movie string music and 80’s synthesizer horror music) picks up, the camera starts shaking and whirling around and chaos ensues.
There’s some B-slasher movie fun to be had here. The script by Simon Barrett contains some funny one-liners, delivered by the actors with the right amount deadpan, and the killings should satisfy your slasher movie appetite, if you have one that is. And then the twist we’ve all been waiting for finally comes towards the end, but sadly it’s really not all that good or innovative of a twist--unlike the twist in “Cabin In the Woods.” Yes, you may not see it coming but when it does come you sort of shrug and go: “alright then.” I think Wingard and Simon Barrett rely too much on the killings, the comedic one-liners and the overall old school slasher movie vibe “You’re Next” gives off. But none of that is enough. The picture thinks it’s being really cool and clever; man! Aren’t those killings gnarly bro? Can’t that protagonist chick (played by Shami Vinson) kick ass? Aren’t those animal masks creepy? But ultimately it isn’t and its B movie thrills wear off immediately after watching. “You’re Next” isn’t bad per se, it’s just disappointing.
I can see the midnight horror movie audience loving “You’re Next” and ever since it premiered at the 2011 International Film Festival it has received early critical acclaim. The audience at my preview screening seemed to be having a ball. I was never flat out bored during the film and it’s a quick ninety minutes but I guess I wanted more from it. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone into it expecting a clever or innovative twist, but then that would make the movie even more forgettable and pointless. When it comes to horror I need more than just gnarly killings and creepy masks.