“This wasn’t a random attack!” patriarch Paul Davison exclaims to his family. “Our family’s being targeted.”
There are so few good new horror films being made that I try to champion them as much as possible. I was one of the few who paid to see James Gunn’s 2006 cult favorite Slither, and I urged many people to check out the new Evil Dead film this past spring (those same people then checked out the original films that starred Bruce Campbell). I did not champion The Purge, which did extremely well at the box office, but I have championed The Conjuring, which did extremely (and unexpectedly) well critically and financially. The end of the summer of 2013 brought an unexpected little gem of a horror film called You’re Next (which first premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival two years ago and has patiently waited for a U.S. theatrical release from distributor Lionsgate).
2011’s You’re Next centers on the Davison family, whose reunion for their parents’ 35th anniversary at their remote Missouri vacation home goes horribly wrong when they come under attack by three men wearing animal masks. The family members are targeted one-by-one, but Erin Harson (the girlfriend of Crispian, the second eldest son) uses her survivalist training to fight back, surprising the intruders. Things get complicated and much more intense once the mastermind and the true motivation for the attack are revealed. The cast, made up of largely unknowns, delivers the goods, especially Sharni Vinson as Erin in a standout performance. The most recognizable name in the cast is Barbara Crampton of Re-Animator and From Beyond fame (she plays Aubrey Davison, the matriarch of the family). There are cameos from filmmakers Larry Fessenden (the neighbor), Ti West (daughter Aimee Davison’s boyfriend Tariq, and Joe Swanberg (eldest son Drake Davison), all of whom meet grisly ends.
Adam Wingard’s direction is solid, and Simon Barrett’s screenplay pays homage to past horror classics (influences include The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Evil Dead, Halloween, and others). Thomas S. Hammock’s production design is terrific (I especially got a kick out of the blood-splattered walls that had “You’re Next” written on them). The sound design by Jeffrey A. Pitts was very effective, as was the score by Mads Heldtberg. Andrew D. Palermo’s cinematography was first-rate (I especially liked the lighting in the basement scenes). I liked the timeliness of the motivation behind the killings; it makes you hate the bad guys even more. Although I won’t reveal the motivation, I will say that after seeing this film I wished that the family under attack had been Mitt Romney, his creepy wife, and his even creepier kids (a good idea for the sequel?). Anyway, one of the best horror films of 2011 finally gets a theatrical release and it is totally worth checking out.