Everyone has their own reasons for detesting the current state of the horror film. Since the dawn of the new century I have read and heard countless complaints about this subject, yet I disagree. I think horror is enduring an incredible run right now, one that we haven’t seen since, arguably, the 80’s. In these post-9/11 times, certain trends become apparent in modern horror. After all, horror films, like good films in general, tend to reflect the times. The trends I’m speaking of are obvious once you think about it: found-footage films and torture porn. Those are the two terms that are thrown around a lot when discussing the genre’s recent offerings, but I’d like to add one more to the mix: home invasion films. These films deserve to be looked at more in-depth (and I plan on doing so in the near future) since this sub-genre has been around for decades, but, well, enough yammering. Let’s talk about You’re Next.
Directed by Adam Wingard (part of the developing mumblegore movement) and finally given a wide release in 2013, You’re Next fell pray to the kind of soulless horror films that plagued the big screen for years. And as well as the trailer does its best to describe (and, more importantly, sell) the film to its audience, they left out how darkly humorous the film actually is. When I first saw the trailer I remarked how bland it looked, but with its recent addition to the Netflix library I decided to give it a shot. As a self-proclaimed hardcore horror fan I felt it was my duty to check it out. You’re Next is one of the best home invasion movies in years. Hell, one of the best horror films in years. The pacing is tight enough to let the tension build while leaving enough room for some darkly comic lines that don’t seem incredibly out of place, the violence and gore is enough to please even the most hardcore gorehounds out there, the soundtrack is amazing and it’s an all around well-crafted film.
The film truly shines through all of its subtleties, a product of the great filmmaking at hand. A prime example is when we see the mother early on, through a long shot looking into the house, crossing the kitchen floor. Throughout the first act the filmmaking is fairly practical, but once we see her walk past a few glass windows, the camera becomes shaky. This handheld shot implies that one of the stalkers is watching her outside and shares with the audience his voyeuristic point-of-view. It’s this subtle transition in camera composition that really made my eyes light up, only to happen again at the dinner table scene. The part I’m referring to doesn’t deal with the ethics of handheld takes, but the editing, primarily when Ti West’s character (playing a caricature of young filmmakers) stands up from his seat while everyone is arguing with one another. This moment provides the first death sequence for the family that we have been watching, which ends with a bolt from a crossbow silently entering the frontal lobe of the man who brought us The House of the Devil. Crispian’s girlfriend, Erin, is the first to catch on, and the sequence that follows helped seal my love for the film. What happens is a series of cuts, first showing a closeup of Erin’s face, her eyes wandering from the sibling rivalry at hand and towards where Ti West is standing. Cut to a medium closeup of shattered glass on the floor. Cut back to Erin’s eyes registering the glass shards and slowly looking up. Cut back to an slow tilt upwards, from the broken glass to the jagged hole in the window. Cut back to one of the bickering brothers registering the what’s going on and soon all hell breaks loose. The editing technique is subtle, but without it the film wouldn’t be as pristine as it is.
Where do I go from here? The film has a kickass heroine, one who avoids falling into cliched plot points (“Don’t go in there!”). She’s quick on her feet, deadly when it comes to self-defense and starts laying down little traps, Home Alone style. And did I mention how brutal the film is? The taught wire hanging across the front door. The ax tied to the ceiling yet rigged to a door which, when one unfortunate soul walks through, ends up with a transition of the spurting blood from the mangled head spelling out the title of film. Gold. Oh yeah, there’s also a death scene involving a blender that made me giddy, but the kind of giddy I haven’t felt in years. You know, the kind of giddy you get when you first see Jason Voorhees pick up that helpless girl trapped in a sleeping bag and whacks her into a tree in Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood. Or that moment when Lionel first revs up the lawnmower he’s holding before diving into a sea of zombies in Dead Alive.
You’re Next is a throwback movie to the stalker horrors of yesteryear and packs enough of a punch to leave you reeling well after the end credits are over. The film is dark and incredibly humorous at times, and it’s easy to see that the filmmakers involved have a knack for this kind of thing. Like I mentioned earlier, the soundtrack is great, with bizarre horn noises that brought films like Ravenous and one piece that sounds like a collision between Com Truise, the video game Hotline Miami and the movie Beyond the Black Rainbow. I highly recommend checking this out if you’re a horror fan who has grown weary of what Hollywood has been churning out. If you’re a casual movie watcher then sure, throw it on. The film is roughly a hour and a half, and it goes by quickly enough to keep anyone interested. You’re Next is now streaming on Netflix and check out the trailer below.