You’re Next is a deceptively smart horror film, a wicked journey that’s both fun and stylistically inventive. The movie opens with clichés of the genre, almost distractingly so: we see people having sex, followed by the girl walking around naked/in provocative clothing, and then both of them being slaughtered by masked men. It’s setting up for what we feel like we already know: that there will be a lot of people gathering, that some will be sexually promiscuous and a lot will be killed off shortly, and that everyone is a complete idiot. And for the movie’s first half hour, we get simple character development, simple plot points, and then the killing begins. Only then do we realize the true nature of this particular horror film, and its deeply rooted understanding of the genre and its standards.
Erin (Sharni Vinson) is our lead, an Australian pretty girl who’s dating one of the sons at their parent’s anniversary gathering. She’s the only smart one of the group, and the commentary arises from her surroundings. Most characters in horror films have no sense of self-preservation, particularly the leads. They’re often attractive, innocent girls who run away and somehow escape our killers; Erin, on the other hand, is a bonafide badass, a girl who knows her situation and plans ahead far more than anyone else. Every other character in this film basically allows for themselves to die, often saying that the killers will expect something, do the opposite, and get killed; these killers are smarter than that.
The film has a lot of fun with where it wants to head. This is a fairly familiar story in terms of its beats and character motivations, but the horror genre has never been this gritty and independently made; at least, this effectively. For a mainstream horror release, it’s surprisingly strong in its voice and message: that horror films have far too many clichés, and often feel like templates with new things filling in the old. But we’re given characters like Erin, who not only work as strong forces but are immensely likable, and we have a sense of humor that doesn’t take away from the story’s serious moments. Hell, a guy walks around with an arrow in his back as if nothing has happened. This is a fun, deliberately odd film, but it’s a refreshing entry in the horror genre.
Grade: ★★★★ (out of 5)