Due to scheduling issues I’m doing a late substitution for the film originally planned for today. Instead I’m dusting off the slasher classic You’re Next. “A classic?” You say. They did do a mural of the film at the Alamo Drafthouse. No idea if it’s still there but that’s cool. I would also argue this was the film that set Adam Wingard up for all of his future success. Despite the fact this film totally got the shaft upon its release.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to make a good horror movie. Sometimes all you need is a wheel with a little more flare. Maybe some cool racing stripes—Clearly, I’m a total gear head. You’re Next is as bare-bones as slasher movies get. It has masked killers, an isolated location, a high body count, and blood by the bucketful. I have no problem with that if it’s done well and between director Adam Wingard and his loyal scribe, Simon Barrett, You’re Next is a masterclass in how to write and shoot horror. This film is beautiful with stark wide shots and stylish kills. Even the look of the killers in their porcelain-like animal masks are instantly memorable.
The film is about the Davison family reuniting at their family home in rural Missouri. Big points for setting and shooting a film in Missouri. The film begins as an ensemble piece with a whos-who of indie horror and mumblecore actors. Cast members include; scream queen Barbara Crampton, AJ Bowen, Amy Seimetz, and directors Joe Swanberg and Ti West. Though it’s Sharni Vinson who takes the spotlight as Erin, the girlfriend of one of the Davison brothers. I’ll get to her in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.
Nearby, unbeknownst to the Davison’s, their neighbors have been murdered. This is also the opening scene of the movie and again features indie favorites including Kate Lyn Sheil (Silver Bullets, The Color Wheel) and legendary horror director/actor Larry Fessenden (Habit, Wendigo). The scene is accompanied by a song Sheil’s character plays on her home stereo and this song more or less becomes the theme song of the movie.
I rarely make a playlist now that doesn’t include Dwight Twilley’s 1977 rocker “Looking for the Magic” and for that I am forever grateful to You’re Next. This bouncy and infectious power-pop ballad plays during the opening murder and because the song is stuck on a loop in their house, we hear it on repeat throughout the movie. I love it. If you don’t know this song click here and enjoy it. I don’t know what about it works so well but it’s a special song. Magical even.
Eventually, the killers who don a Fox, Lamb, and Tiger mask respectively pick off the Davison’s in gruesome fashion. But there’s a twist! Erin (Sharni Vinson) is just as deadly as the killers, maybe deadlier. Like one part Kevin McAllister and another part Rambo, Erin fights back, makes traps, and outwits her assailants time and time again in a game of cat and mouse. A nice change of pace from your typical scream queen.
There are other twists and turns tied to the family but I will hold my tongue for the time being. You’re Next is a lot of fun and should have been a big hit. There’s no reason it couldn’t have been this decade’s The Strangers. Alas, the film fell into limbo after being picked up and left to wallow for over two years before it came out in a limited release in 2013. It’s bullshit. Can you imagine the sequels we could have got? We’re Next? Who’s Next?–That one could have an all Who soundtrack. One silver lining is the critical reception propelled Adam Wingard’s career. Wingard and Barrett followed this with the action/thriller The Guest which was followed by Blair Witch, Death Note and soon to come Godzilla vs. Kong. If Wingard was looking for the magic I think he’s finally found it.