You’re Next is the most imaginative slasher movie made in the last few years. It’s sharp-tongued, family-based dialogue playfully subverts its outlandish horror and brutality.
You’re Next begins like every other generic, vicious-hearted little slasher movie with a standard set-up. A couple in a remote house are despatched fairly proficiently by a masked killer. Scrawled across the wall is the very threat within the movie’s title. It’s far from ground-breaking – or even that frightening.
However by the end of the movie you’ll be standing and cheering at the screen as you realise You’re Next is the most imaginative slasher movie ever made.
What happens in between these polar opposite moments is a work of assumption shattering genius.
A large family gathers in a vacation home in Missouri. Here we have an ineffectual patriarch, a mother on medication (an out of retirement Barbara ‘Re-Animator‘ Crampton sewing the seeds of her ‘mother-on-the-edge’ routine from We Are Still Here) and various brothers, sisters and partners all played by various actors you may recognise from the super-incestuous mumblecore scene (Joe Swanberg, A.J. Bowen). And it’s perhaps the presence of these low-key, yet nonetheless charming actors and their use of improv that brings an off-kilter humour to the interactions between these family members.
Things become particularly fractious at dinner, brothers act like typically cunty brothers, sisters act like spoilt little princesses, partners look on bewildered as everyone basically reverts back to their teenage selves… And then a bolt is shot through the window, despatching the filmmaker/walking-Vice-magazine played fittingly by The House of the Devil director Ti West and things begin their inevitable shift into the systematic murder of each family member.
Only that’s not what You’re Next is about. Really it’s about the systematic breakdown of a family unit. The weakest, most peripheral family members disappear first, and as these stresses and tensions become more fractious, relationships mutate and go weird along the way.
All this sounds like a tortuous miseryfest on paper, however this is where You’re Next stands out at mile from the rest… It’s fucking hilarious. As the relationships become more fraught in the face of extreme terror, the dialogue remains in the same flippant, petty bickering mode we’re used to hearing within our own families, grounding everything in reality and bringing an incredibly naturalistic tone and wit to what could easily just play out as an above average slasher (incidentally the You’re Next soundtrack is a work of industrial synth brilliance, bringing another level of discordance to proceedings).
The only semi-fantastical character is the inhumanly resourceful Erin, played by the excellent Sharni Vinson. Her background doesn’t truly come to light till the action is in full swing, much like Alien or Evil Dead where the real hero of the film isn’t truly realised until the end. Thus prompting you to stand up and scream at the screen “holy fuck that character kicks ass, three more sequels please, NOW”.
That’s after you’ve already stood up and screamed that thing about it being the most imaginative slasher movie made in the last few years. Sheesh, no wonder you’ve been banned from Cineworld.
For more spine-chilling thrills to watch over Halloween, check out our complete 31 days of horror movies list.