×

Film Review: ‘You’re Next’

Once brief preliminaries are over, this tale of a wealthy family under siege at the requisite isolated country home offers genre fans what they came for in terms of high-body-count mayhem.

With:

With: Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Margaret Laney, Amy Seimetz, Ti West, Rob Moran, Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, Kate Lyn Sheil, L.C. Holt, Lane Hughes, Simon Barrett, Calvin Lee Reeder.

There may be no great originality on display in “You’re Next,” the latest indie horror opus from Adam Wingard (“A Horrible Way to Die,” “Pop Skull”), but there’s certainly plenty of energy. Once brief preliminaries are over, this tale of a wealthy family under siege at the requisite isolated country home offers genre fans what they came for in terms of high-body-count mayhem. No doubt smelling blood — of which there is plenty — as well as B.O. potential, distribs were tightly circling this chiller at Toronto, with prospects of wider play than the helmer has previously scored very likely.

The prelude sees unfortunate neighbors (Wingard’s indie horror compatriot Larry Fessenden and Kate Lyn Sheil) suffer an unpleasant post-coital demise at the hands of intruders who leave the titular phrase scrawled in blood. Pulling up in blissful ignorance shortly thereafter are Paul (Rob Moran) and Aubrey Davison (Barbara Crampton), who are about to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary in the company of their four children, planning to attend with their partners.

First to arrive is Crispian (AJ Bowen), an unsuccessful teacher/writer accompanied by game, supportive Aussie g.f. Erin (Sharni Vinson). He’s treated somewhat as the family failure, especially by smug, manipulative brother Drake (Joe Swanberg), whose own squeeze, Kelly (Margaret Laney), is his perfect match in bitchy shallowness. Youngest bro Felix (Nicholas Tucci) has a vaguely delinquent air, and his honey, Zee (Wendy Glenn), can barely be troubled to conceal her contempt toward all. Sole Davison daughter Aimee (Amy Seimetz) is a chirpy little princess who’s acquired a sulky artistic boyfriend (Ti West, helmer of 2009 cult fave “The House of the Devil”).

The full family hasn’t gathered for some time, and we soon see why. They’ve barely sat down to dinner before Crispian and Drake are at each other’s throats, with everyone else yelling at them to stop. During this fracas, a guest notices something strange outside the window. Seconds later everyone is screaming for entirely different reasons, as one person has been killed, another seriously wounded, and the remainder are scrambling for cover from a volley of crossbow arrows — not the only weapons that will be wielded by an unknown number of assailants wearing plastic animal masks.

It’s fast apparent the coolest head here belongs to Erin, whose frequently lethal resourcefulness under extreme circumstances is eventually explained as owing to her being raised on a survivalist compound. As Davisons drop like flies, her Final Girl resilience helps somewhat even the odds.

About halfway through the screenplay by Simon Barrett (who also penned 2004’s very good, underseen Civil War-era horror “Dead Birds”) we discover this onslaught is an inside job — though don’t expect much surprise or weight to one character’s full-disclosure speech at the end. “You’re Next” is fairly light on psychological and narrative complexity, but it’s still a good cut above the slasher norm, with a firm grasp on visceral action and the wisdom to place tongue slightly in cheek when things go further over the top.

Able cast is dotted with genre personalities, including all three leads from “A Horrible Way to Die.” Assembly is sharp, with the strong original score undermined only by a brief late foray into self-consciously cheesy 1980s synth sounds.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'You're Next'

Production:

A Snoot Entertainment production in association with HanWay Films. (International sales: HanWay, London.) Produced by Keith Calder, Jessica Wu, Simon Barrett, Kim Sherman. Directed by Adam Wingard. Screenplay, Simon Barrett.

Crew:

Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Andrew Palermo; editor, Wingard; music, Jasper Justin Lee, Kyle McKinnon, Mads Heidtberg; costume designer, Emma Potter; art director, Nathan Truesdell; set decorator, Lanie Faith Marie Overton; production designer, Thomas S. Hammock; sound, Lotus Post; casting, Michelle Morris. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Midnight Madness), Sept. 13, 2011. Running time: 94 MIN.

Cast:

With: Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Margaret Laney, Amy Seimetz, Ti West, Rob Moran, Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, Kate Lyn Sheil, L.C. Holt, Lane Hughes, Simon Barrett, Calvin Lee Reeder.

More Scene

  • Anne Hathaway Modern Love

    Anne Hathaway Talks Mental Health Awareness, Playing a Bipolar Woman on Amazon's 'Modern Love'

    In Amazon Prime’s upcoming “Modern Love,” Anne Hathaway sheds light on an important facet of living with mental health issues, playing a bipolar woman who struggles with dating. “We’re all becoming more sensitive, wiser and more cognizant of gentility, and especially emotional gentility. I think those conversations are starting to happen. And I think the desire [...]

  • Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron.

    Charlize Theron Could Win Second Oscar for Playing Megyn Kelly in 'Bombshell'

    Charlize Theron walked on stage before a screening of “Bombshell” at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center on Sunday night and announced to the crowd, “I’m about to s— myself.” The Oscar winner had good reason to be nervous. The screening of the Jay Roach-directed drama about the fall of Fox News boss Roger Ailes was [...]

  • Charlize Theron speaks at the GEANCO

    Charlize Theron Talks 'White Privilege,' Growing Up During Apartheid in South Africa

    Charlize Theron, during an onstage discussion with her “Gringo” costar David Oyelowo about philanthropy at Thursday’s annual fundraiser for Nigerian children’s educational and health program GEANCO, said she was a beneficiary of “white privilege” while growing up in Apartheid-torn South Africa. “I obviously am a white person who benefited from my white privilege,” Theron said [...]

  • Lyliana Wray, Sam Ashe Arnold, Miya

    ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark’ Revival Team on Living Up to the Series’ Legacy

    The 2019 revival of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” centers around the Carnival of Doom, a place that star Jeremy Ray Taylor (“It Chapter Two”) describes as “beautiful on the outside, but…in the middle of it, there are definitely dark secrets. Variety caught up with the young star during a carnival-themed celebration at Row DTLA [...]

  • Charlize Theron'The Addams Family' film premiere,

    Charlize Theron Speaks Immigration, Diversity in ‘The Addams Family’

    They’re creepy, they’re kooky, and they’re an allegory for immigration in America.  Charlize Theron discussed the changing face of the nuclear family and her animated film, “The Addams Family,” with Variety at the movie’s recent premiere at the Century City Mall in Los Angeles. “When you think of [the Addams] being around since the sixties, [...]

  • Emma Stone attends the Los Angeles

    Emma Stone Talks 'Cruella' Transformation, New 'Zombieland' Sequel

    Despite inevitable comparisons to Glenn Close’s iconic turn as Cruella de Vil in 1996’s “101 Dalmatians,” Emma Stone teased that her take on the infamous villain in the upcoming “Cruella” movie will be very distinctive. “It comes long before her story,” Stone told Variety at the premiere of “Zombieland: Double Tap” at the Regency Village [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content