I’ve lost count of how many postmodern horrors supposedly reinvent the genre: The Cabin in the Woods, Shaun of the Dead, Baghead, Scream, even Scary Movie. Really, most scary films are self-aware to some extent. So it’s impressive how You’re Next blends traditional shock cliches with a sharp script that leaves me jumping and laughing in equal measure.
The intentionally cliched setup for You’re Next sees Sharni Vinson visiting her boyfriend’s extensive family in an oversized remote house. It’s late, it’s dark, and no one can hear you scream – apart from the masked killers hiding outside in twisted animal masks.
You’re Next slowly peels away at the horror genre without breaking the fourth wall. At no point does anyone emulate that infamous Scream monologue about how to survive a slasher flilm. It’s actually the reverse; when arrows shoot through the windows, Amy Seimetz volunteers to run towards the attackers (in slow motion, of course).
That joke foreshadows the masterstroke: Vinson, representing the “final girl”, breaks the genre’s trend by fighting instead of running. After all, why run up the stairs when you can build a Home Alone-style booby trap instead?
You’re Next is a vast improvement on 2010’s so-so A Horrible Way to Die, a previous collaboration between director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett. Many of that film’s cast return to act deadpan and completely straight under absurd circumstances. For some, it’s a thrill to witness Joe Swanberg improvising with Seimetz and Ti West. The conversation even produces the most self-referential moment when Swanberg ironically defends advertisements as the greatest art form; a cue for you to laugh smugly, as if indicating to cinemagoers you sat through Hannah Takes the Stairs and Alexander the Last.
Vinson is the real star, as the poster suggests. Previously known for Step Up 3D and four years on Home and Away, she enters the indie horror environment as a sensible outsider; the Australian accent certainly adds to the juxtaposition.
Inventive deaths and gore add to the sensory fun, with half the pain in recognising inevitable uses of props. It demands a cinema viewing for the sounds and occasionally cheesy 60s music (unless you have access to a remote cabin and DVD player). After the endless stream of home-invasion films, it’s a pleasure that one arrives feeling fresh, original and clearly made by horror fans.
United States of America
95 mins approx