At first sniff, You’re Next appears to be utterly derivative with nary an original thread running through it. In summary: An affluent family has a reunion in a remote house in the country (The Children, Funny Games) and is terrorized by a group masked of intruders (The Strangers, The Purge). However, that seems to be the point, with Director Adam Wingard (V/H/S, A Horrible Way to Die) and Writer Simon Barrett (ABCs of Death) playing to your expectations before lacerating them in the blink of an eye.
As their perceived safety crumbles around them, members of the family begin to bicker amongst themselves. Often digging up the past to score cheap shots. When the youngest daughter is discouraged from running outside for help, she opines that her father never had any faith her. The two eldest brothers are happy to try and score points off each other despite one of them sustaining a rather nasty injury. With a family this mean-spirited, it’s almost as if Barrett and Wingard don’t want you to care what happens to them.
Enter Erin, played by Sharni Vinson (Bait 3D, Patrick). Thankfully unrelated by virtue of being a brother’s girlfriend, Erin is a kickass heroine; taking on the intruders head on in a game of cat and mouse. It’s great to see a heroine who doesn’t run around jiggling and screaming till the final act.
Of course, a horror isn’t based solely its protagonists. It’s the antagonists that will make it or break it. Unlike, for instance, F’s Cirque du Soleil, back-flipping ninnies in hoodies, these anonymous predators (they all wear animal masks) work because of their humanity. And man’s inhumanity to man is always scary. With the possible exception of Hostel. No, there’s no magic words or amulet to break in order to stop these guys. Even when it looks like the chips are down for them, they keep marching.
You’re Next is a mean film. The situation is mean. Its cast of characters are mean. And that is what makes it so deliciously watchable.