(This post contains minimal spoilers)
At last year’s London Frightfest I sadly missed out on several features that got rave reviews from both the critics and audiences. Call it laziness, but I just didn’t fancy watching one of the hotly tipped films when it was theatrically released. The film in question would be You’re Next, a throwback to the home-invasion films of the 70s and 80s (made way back in 2011). Having a mild disdain for most modern horror, minus a few recent exceptions (the recent Maniac remake and the Evil Dead reboot to name just two) I felt unsure of all the praise You’re Next had been receiving.
With the beginning of 2014 being the year of change for most people, I decided to give it a rental at least and make my own mind up. I’d forgotten most of the reviews and went in with low expectations, which worked well with the aforementioned reboots/remakes. After my viewing finished I still wasn’t sure what to make of it, but I know for a fact I was a tad indifferent to it once the credits rolled (possibly due to lack of concentration).
I felt that I was unfairly harsh on it once it had finished, but admittedly I was bored with its predictability (which it seems self-aware of) and its clichés. I wasn’t looking for something revolutionary, I was just after something fun. Like most modern horror it’s all done with the best intentions, knowing winks for genre fans and impressive technical skill. The thing with You’re Next is that I didn’t hate it, rather this feeling of indifference constantly bugged me after it had finished. The whole Mumble-Gore genre (which it’s been dumbed) has never really appealed to me, barring a few of Ti West’s finely crafted efforts such as House of the Devil and The Innkeepers.
There was quite a bit I liked about it though, a lot of which keeps coming back to me and producing the odd chuckle. For the starters the family dynamic feels real and you have a set of genuinely likeable characters that are actually worth rooting for. All of which makes each of their inevitable demises all the more shocking.
Sharni Vinson is impressive as survivalist girlfriend Erin, capable of setting up violent traps and trading lethal blows with ruthless efficiency. It’s refreshing to not find out her back-story until half way through the film which – although far from original – provides a jesting poke at the genre’s stale clichés. A lot of the dialogue feels naturalistic and what one might expect from such a heightened situation. Although it’s not as clever as say, Cabin in the Wood’s pastiche take on the genre, but it contains a few laugh-out-loud moments to satisfy the devoted horror fan.
The home-invasion violence is top notch in its execution, providing plenty of wince-inducing moments that are coupled with genuine belly laughs. I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard at extreme bodily harm since my first viewing of Evil Dead 2. I won’t spoil some of the kills but I will say just how much I dug the outcome of some. I’d forgotten the last time a crossbow was used to such deadly and hilarious effect. Even the masked killers are enigmatic at times as their creepy animal masks peer around corners and through broken windows.
What I’m finding most bizarre is that the more I write about this, the more I’m finding I enjoyed it. It really is a rather odd feeling as I know it wasn’t a genre defining film I’ve seen many a review state it to be. Rather it’s a loving homage to 80s trash cinema without carrying that stale whiff of dire grindhouse labelling (one which Rodriguez hasn’t been able to shake-off since 2007). I think one thing I didn’t allow myself to do during the first viewing was actually enjoy its lunacy. It’s been a very long time since a horror film has divided my opinion on it so much.
This is the first time – in a very long time – that horror has been this much fun for me, harking back to fond memories of trashy 80s slasher films and making me fist pump the air when a blender is used (you’ll see what I mean). I’m curious to see what a second viewing brings.
Have you seen You’re Next? What did you think of it, is it as good as people have said or do you see it as just a bunch of hyperbolic nonsense? Feel free to comment below.