Prior to the surprising success of both VHS and its sequel in the last eighteen months, it’s unlikely that this would even have been seen by most people, as it had previously only been viewable on the festival circuit and only got a wider release in August 2013, despite being made a couple of years earlier.
It’s odd to imagine that a film that is only ninety minutes long to begin with could actually drag, but you get the feeling that something is up when even the characters themselves don’t get introduced to each other until we are twenty plus minutes into the film. By this point of course, nothing has happened since before the title of the film appeared, written in blood, after the brutal killing of a couple, post-coitus.
So if you were confused beforehand (why? practically nothing has happened yet) then you are going to be completely bewildered by all of the new faces that have turned up as, we can only assume at this point, are killer fodder. Numbering at half a dozen new arrivals, plus the family that is already there, we’re numbering at around eight people, one or two of which we’re expecting to survive.
So, half a dozen grisly death scenes to come and already, you don’t care about the people that are getting chopped up for your entertainment. They have been thrown at you like shit hitting a fan and you really have no compulsion to engage with any of them. Partly, because there is no time and partly, well, because they seem like a family that you really wouldn’t get on with.
They also seem to have their own set of problems with an uncomfortable sibling rivalry bubbling under an uncomfortable surface and this is played out well in the first act as we become more familiar with the assembled group. Maybe not enough to care about them per se, but certainly enough to appreciate the thread of the convincingly delivered dialogue, which has all the feeling of some interesting improvisation.
Thankfully, it’s not long before the in-fighting is forgotten as things turn ugly by the time you’re half an hour into the film and then it’s time to gleefully await what will hopefully be the inventive and unpleasant ways for these frankly horrible, annoying and obnoxious people to be routinely dispensed and sent to whatever maker they subscribe to. The script delivers some wry sideswipes at family life, even amongst the chaos, which Simon Barrett should be applauded for, even raising a chuckle or two at the irony, timing and placement.
There are twists of course, and to tell you them here would be to ruin what may even be obvious, but suffice to say that this home invasion survival horror is not without purpose. Unlike some of the other recent films in this particular genre, there is method in the apparent madness, which when revealed, does take some of the illusion, gloss and chills away from it. Some people like their horror movies completely impossible and steeped in the supernatural while others prefer the reality of what horrors can be not only imagined, but carried out, as it makes the visceral experience possible, however unpleasant. ‘You’re Next’ stands firmly in the latter of these two camps, so if you’re after spooks, then look elsewhere, as you will not find them here.
At a smidgen over ninety minutes, You’re Next is a plodding survival horror with an often interesting script. The action scenes are not overly inventive or elaborate, with Wingard and Barrett relying mostly on blunt force and obvious plot devices to implement them. The acting, interspersed between the running and/or screaming is pretty good for the most part and probably better than you should expect, given the subject matter and budget.
What we have is a horror movie bereft of that spine-tingling something that keeps you on the edge of your seat. It’s not as gratuitous as the likes of Hostel or Saw, but also fails to raise the tension to anything above a murmur. Fine, for all that, but it will not set any pulses racing even in its own genre, much less to a wider audience.