So, I’ve been looking forward to this flick for awhile now. In fact, I wrote about my anticipation and the sub-genre it plays in a few weeks back. Yeah, I’ve been pretty excited about this movie, as that article would lead you to believe. Actually, I’ve known about this flick for some time now, as it was filmed and completed back in 2011. It played the festival circuit, and the buzz all seemed pretty positive, but for awhile it seemed that it might not get an “official” release, even though Lionsgate did in fact pick it up in 2011. It’s been sitting on a shelf somewhere, or maybe on a a hard drive, in the interim. I wonder why it took them so long to put this mother out. Although, it actually might have helped the films chances, as far as making money goes anyways. It’s been able to go from grass roots horror enthusiast interest piece to a broad appeal marketing juggernaut. Seriously, everywhere I’ve turned in the past few months, I’ve been inundated with You’re Next marketing materials. Hey, I’m not complaining, or anything. It always does my heart good to see “smaller” flicks make a cultural splash.
This film marks a kind of rare occasion for me. I literally know nothing about anyone involved in this film in almost any capacity. That’s weird for me, because my brain is just full of “useless” movie information, and, much to the chagrin of my fiancee, I’m able to tell you a plethora of things about whatever it is I’m watching. Like, some real incidental “minutia” type of stuff. Hey, I think it’s awesome. Why wouldn’t you want to know all of this great pointless information. Well, “pointless” to the casual viewer, but I dare you to be a casual viewer in my presence! I dare you! Anyways…
This “blank spot” in my movie knowledge was kind of refreshing, honestly. I had no idea what to expect from this movie, and was able to go in without knowing the proclivities of the film makers. Sometimes, knowing too much about the creators can almost spoil the experience for you, because they’re all people, and people have certain things in common, in terms of human nature. Things like, “habit.” A lot of times, writers and directors often frame all of their work in similar territory; or tropes, I suppose. For me, this kind of knowledge often can spoil some of the “twists and turns,” and more often than not, I can figure out the themes and where the plot is going to go long before the credits roll. This doesn’t necessarily deter my enjoyment, or anything. A well made movie is, just that, well made, but it was nice to go into this in a state of complete “blank slate.”
This movie treads in some well traveled territory, and the most shocking thing about it is how straight forward it is. It’s not trying to be overly clever, or subvert our expectations constantly. Instead, what you get is a extremely well made movie, that relies more on tight pacing, and scripting, than “shocking twists.” That’s not to say that there’s no surprises in store, but they aren’t predicated on plot advancement. Well, the moments certainly effect the plot, but the movie doesn’t hinge on them. The bulk of the film takes place over the course of one night, and the “shocking” moments happen in the midst of the home invasion. The characters and the audience aren’t given the opportunity to dwell on what’s happening. Sure, they find the events efficiently traumatizing, but the whole thing is traumatizing.
What makes all of the events and character deaths so effective is that the film makers had the audacity to make actual likable characters. Crazy, right? All too often in these types of films we are offered up character that we actively don’t like, and even maybe despise. So, when they get knocked off one by one we literally couldn’t care less, and is often the only source of enjoyment from the films. This is not the case with You’re Next though. Even though some of the characters are straight up entitled assholes, they feel incredibly real, and even sincere in their disposition. There are so many moments in this film where the character dynamics are hilariously, and painfully, real. There is one scene in particular, during a dinner scene, where two of the brothers start passive aggressively bickering, that reminded me of moments I’ve had in my life with my own brothers(It should be noted that my brothers and I, while probably assholes, have a much better sense of humor than these characters. Proof? Here you go!).
One of the more surprising things about this flick was how funny it was, and not in an unintentional way. Some people might be caught off guard by this, because the marketing doesn’t even hint at this stuff being in the film at all. It was kind of nice though. It’s extremely self aware, and utilizes the characters reactions in a believable and funny way. They do a really good job of setting up who these characters are that when they say “darkly” funny things it never feels forced, or false. The comedic moments feel earned through the success of the characterizations.
While You’re Next is all about “set-ups and pay-offs,” the movie moves at such a break neck pace that you forget about the “set-up” portions, and are often surprised and caught off guard when the “pay-offs” actually do occur. It’s a testament to how invested you become in the characters that some of the mechanical minutia goes by without you really noticing. Everything the characters do, in terms of “standing their ground,” seems really obvious, and that is maybe what I was most surprised by. The movie doesn’t go out of it’s way to be overly clever, and in a world full of “clever” bullshit, I found it extremely refreshing.
In the films third act, it evolves into a Home Alone/Die Hard esque survivalist film, and is a pretty great “twist.” Again, like the comedic elements, it doesn’t feel forced, and the movie does a really great job of setting up this turn. It almost seems like the obvious direction, and made me think “Well, how could it have gone any other way!” Even the score shifts a bit, and smoothly slinks into synthesized tones, that are reminiscent of movies from the late 70’s and 80’s. It’s an awesome “taking back the power” scenario, and really elevates the movie in it’s last act. While it still plays in the genre, this paradigm shift hearkens back to some of the great “home invasion” films of yesteryear, specifically Straw Dogs(The original! Don’t be a dick!), a personal favorite of mine.
While the entire cast of this film is really great, I’d like to single out Sharni Vinson. She is a fantastic heroine, and “bad ass,” in the true sense of the term. She’s strong willed, calm, and most importantly capable; It’s what sets her apart from other of her ilk in this genre. Usually these films usually have a heroine of some sort, but their “hero status” isn’t predicated on their abilities; more often than not, they stumble their way through the predicament, and end up making it to the end by way of accidents and happenstance. She’s a great foil for the intruders, and the fact that she is a woman exposes male preconceptions about “female abilities” within the antagonists. Sure, she’s at a disadvantage, but it’s not because she’s a women. It’s the kind of character that I would love to expose my 15 year old sister to, as she’s a fantastic “role-model,” of sorts.
When walking out of the theater yesterday afternoon, the word “refreshing” kept coming to mind, and it pretty much sums up my feelings about the movie. It’s a simple, straightforward movie with modest goals, that it more than successfully achieves. It’s one of those rare times where my expectations/hopes were exceeded, and marks one of the first times in awhile where I wholeheartedly agree with the general consensus. This movie is as good as you’ve heard, people. Seriously, go see it! It will make you cringe, laugh, and keep you on the edge of your seat. There’s something for everyone here, and is more than worth your time.