Low budget horror films are a funny thing sometimes. The horror genre is so well-worn that it can be at times difficult to find your own niche. As such, subgenres are a big part of the modern day horror world, whether we’re talking torture porn (Hostel, Saw, or Wolf Creek), found footage (The Blair Witch Project, or The Devil Inside), slasher (Friday the 13th) or revenge fantasy (I Spit on Your Grave), among a litany of other options. Adam Wingard’s You’re Next falls into the realm of home invasion horror, somewhat in the style of Funny Games (with a bit of revenge mixed in to taste).
The story follows a large family gathering at a secluded mansion, celebrating the anniversary of their parents. Things turn grim as the family is ambushed by crossbow-wielding white animal mask wearing psychos intent on killing all of them. The mayhem escalates as the group splinters and the weaker are killed, and one of the women (Erin, Sharni Vinson) comes to the fore as our dominant protagonist. The house is large, allowing for a good and robust cat and mouse game during the more stalk-y sections of the middle hour (and, to be honest, makes better use of the space than another film set in a giant house, August: Osage County). Doing so allows for some Home Alone elements to sneak their way in as the victims work to fight back against their predators.
As is probably not too surprising, You’re Next is not redefining the horror scene. Wingard does take some liberties, including having a penchant for casting other indie directors in some of the lead roles, including Joe Swanberg (one of the pioneers of mumblecore and the director of last year’s Drinking Buddies) and Ti West (actually a horror director, of The Innkeepers and The House of the Devil). Swanberg’s inclusion is a notable one, as the film has been referred to as helping to establish a new (and somewhat on the nose) subgenre that mixes the low budget and improvisational style of mumblecore with the horror setting (‘mumblegore’ if you will), and the conversations here take on a casual, loosely scripted feel that would not seem out of place in a film like Computer Chess or The Puffy Chair.
This style is generally what makes You’re Next stand a bit apart from its genre. The horror components of the film are not particularly noteworthy, though the use of the animal masks is visually striking, especially in the way the red blood splatters over their harsh white as the arteries begin to open. The chief way the film continues to retain its interest lies in the characters, and there are some wonderful interactions late in the film that brushes with the fourth wall without quite breaking it.
You’re Next isn’t a movie that breaks too many boundaries, but its scares are effective and it does enough in its own little ways to stand out from the rest of the pack ever so slightly.