The home invasion subgenre is a curious one, encapsulating a spectrum of films ranging from ultraviolent thrillers like Straw Dogs (1971) to screwball comedies like Home Alone (1990). While Adam Wingard’s You’re Next leans closer to the former, it also provides more humor than one might expect. For this reason, I found the film to be absurdly entertaining despite an immense amount of gore.
As previously suggested, the film revolves around a family reunion that is broken up by a group of home invaders. Wearing zoo animal masks, the violent intruders commence the most dangerous game and attempt to pick off each of the family members. Without further explanation, the film comes off unnecessary and fruitless. In fact, I originally avoided You’re Next because it seemed too similar to The Strangers (2008), which I found to be both terrifying and disappointing because of its senseless antagonists. Nonetheless, I was still intrigued by You’re Next because of its cast that includes some prominent independent filmmakers (e.g. Joe Swanberg and Ti West).
Beyond the initial summary, the film is weirdly intriguing due in part to a good helping of humor and a proper twist. As the number of living dwindles down, we are left with a strong survivor named Erin (Sharni Vinson), who easily becomes the character to root for. I would even go as far as saying that she ranks amongst Ellen Ripley of Alien (1979) and Sarah Connor of The Terminator (1984) as one of the most kick-butt female leads.
The film radiates with that 1970s horror aesthetic that many films of the genre have been applying lately – even if they don’t take place during that exact decade. I particularly liked the musical score because of how reminiscent it was of John Carpenter’s synthetic style. But the true winner in the sound department is the use of the Dwight Twilley Band’s “Looking for the Magic”, which plays on repeat throughout the film. You may be thinking, “A song playing on repeat during an entire film? That must be annoying!” But it works and is an effective reminder of the semi-secluded location.
You’re Next is ultimately a surprising success. It’s not exactly a jump out of your seat horror film, but it is definitely an entertaining thriller. Perhaps the only turn off is its gruesome violence, which I think is not all that bothering because of its over-the-top nature. Though, I may be more timid to operate a blender from now on.