Adam Wingard’s You’re Next draws a fine line between anarchic genius and unimaginative trash. Thankfully, the former prevails in this terrifically subversive slasher…
You’re Next is that rare breed: a film that draws a fine line between anarchic genius and unimaginative trash. Portmanteau aficionado Adam Wingard paints this line so narrowly I’m inclined to think You’re Next is something rather special. It’s the film The Cabin In The Woods wanted to be without the cap-in-hand commerciality, predating Drew Goddard’s overrated horror-comedy by a year and totally outsmarting its postmodern credentials.
There’s a gleefully subversive undertone to Wingard’s tale of home invasion that is so subtly delivered you’d be forgiving for throwing popcorn at the screen every time another cliché is ticked off the list (and it’s a long list!). But You’re Next needs its genre tropes to form the webbing on which it throws its ace in the pack. That “Ace” is Erin (Sharni Vinson) – a survivalist, trained in the Australian bush by her errant father then shipped off to the “land of the free” with her mother aged 15. In others words, unlike her fellow victims, she’s lived through a hundred Halloween’s and Friday the 13th’s and knows just how to deal with an unwelcome guest wielding an axe.
You’re Next is a horror fan’s dream. Wingard winks at us from minute one. A couple, having committed the cardinal sin of having sex in a horror movie are sliced and diced shortly after. But the director’s joke here isn’t necessarily the post-coitus slaughter but the CD the victim puts on the living room’s music system, playing its song-list on repeat. It’s a wry nod to the recycling of structure, aesthetic and motive within the slasher genre that’s about to get played with during the ensuing hour and a half.
From the use of the line “I’ll be right back” and the lack of mobile phone signal to inept authority figures including a panicked mother and stupid police officers, You’re Next is all about that conversation you had about the artificiality of horror movies and the wish that one day a character would turn the tables once and for all. This time, the killer (or killers) have more than met their match. In fact, tough girl Erin is about to go A-Team on their knife-happy butts.
Definitely more subtly humorous than scary, more sadistically perverted than disturbingly unsettling, You’re Next probably suffers from getting its audience into such a frenzy it runs out of opportunities to raise the hairs on your neck. But what it lacks in real terror – and decent performances – it makes up for in inventive gore. There’s a brilliant sequence involving the unconventional use of a blender, a painfully elongated slaughter concerning a victim who won’t die and a bunch of screwdrivers, and an effective attack in a darkened basement that, with the use of a flashing camera as the only light source, reminded of the ominous opening to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Perhaps the film’s biggest gag is that star Sharni Vinson (who does a good job as Erin, by the way) is a veteran of Australian soap opera Home and Away, one of TV’s most wholesome long-running dramas. She’s come from the land down under with an ability to hack, stab, shoot and bludgeon her way out of any life-threatening situation, no matter how badly the odds stack against her. It’s the film’s final irony. Another feather in its bloody cap.