Other than a cast that includes several independent filmmakers, two of whom have made a few horror films, there’s little special about You’re Next. Yet another home invasion premise, when Adam Wingard’s violent project isn’t boring, it’s loud and annoying. Chronicling a really bad weekend for the Davison family at their country home, the film amounts to grating, bitter arguments between relatives, followed by plentiful screaming and gore from uninteresting, underwritten people. Cruel in spirit and poorly made, no amount of creative deaths or characters walking around with arrows stuck in them can make up for its unpleasantness.
As The Purge proved earlier this year, a basic home invasion story still has legs when partnered with an interesting premise and creative filmmaking. Through classic horror timing and characters’ shout-and-the-screen poor decisions, You’re Next shows early promise for straightforward quality jumps. Building on the early success is an air of mystery that hangs over the family gathering in the form of the clan’s disturbed matriarch (Barbara Crampton) hearing noises upstairs and a range of suspicious tics from the grown children and their significant others. Thrown together in close quarters, these bits of foreshadowing seem primed to produce major scares, but the actual results don’t just fail to follow through, they exhibit a surprising level of schlock.
With festival-friendly filmmakers Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes the Stairs; Drinking Buddies), Amy Seimetz (Sun Don’t Shine), and horror writer/director Ti West (The Innkeepers; The House of the Devil) facing off against animal-masked invaders, among them the film’s writer Simon Barrett (himself no rookie to the genre), it would seem that a horror film made by and presumably for hungry young horror filmmakers would be more competent. Instead, the mayhem is captured through shaky camerawork peppered with a few badass, slow-mo shots that feel like happy accidents. Also inconsistent is the cliché bass-and-scratchy-violin score suddenly giving way to what sounds like Cliff Martinez’s Only God Forgives synth theme in the final act. When even the music supervisors aren’t in synch with the overall work, that’s a sure sign of deep trouble.
Things are nearly as troubling story-wise, where one character just happens to have grown up in a survivalist community and has ideas on how to handle the killers. Advice from this person on what to do and what not to do come off like reading from a handbook, yet are merely the tip of You’re Next’s dumb and possibly unintentional humor. That these pity chuckles arise from the general bad acting suggests that such a response isn’t what the filmmakers wanted, but then V/H/S (on which Wingard and Barrett collaborated) is mostly a mess and West’s work shows only flashes of brilliance amid a lot of drudgery. If these kind of films are what modern horror fans want, so be it, but when the filmmaking is this lazy and the characters are so uninteresting that their survival isn’t of much concern, what’s the incentive for watching?
Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity.
You’re Next is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.