The Fear Lies in The Reality of You’re Next

Home invasion movies center around a suspenseful concept that is eerily disturbing to many due to its very real possibility of happening to anybody. Films such as The Purge or The Aggression Scale (and even the Home Alone series to some lesser, more comedic extent) highlight and showcase a threatening, real-life phenomenon that is perpetrated by scary or dangerous individuals in society. You’re Next is one of those obscure home invasion thriller/horror flicks from about a decade ago that takes on some fairly familiar slasher tropes, that culminates with a few murder mystery elements — cherry-picked into a gory sundae chock full of twists, turns, gruesome kills, a dinner party gone wrong and more.

Directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett, this 2011 horror film is infused with some dashes of dark humor wit, which juxtaposes with a general feeling of unease. Set in present-day rural Missouri (basically middle of nowhere-ville), the plot revolves around a somewhat dysfunctional family gathering of estranged individuals, some of whom have more than their fair share of secrets that come into play later on in the story. The main character of Erin, played by Sharni Vinson, tags along in this reunion with her boyfriend Crispian Davison, and so they travel to his family’s vacation home to celebrate. However, tensions rise as their gathering is cut short by a group of deadly assassins. And, as one may guess, they begin picking them off one by one, seemingly for no good reason but bloody carnage.

Sharni Vinson: Lead actress in 'You're Next'
Sharni Vinson: Lead actress in You’re Next

In this movie’s arsenal there consists of multiple weapons of destruction such as crossbows, garrote wire, hatchets, machetes, firearms, a blender (spoiler alert) and more. Additionally, the entire flick takes place in a desolate and alienated forest area, and the survivors have no method of contact with the outside world as the phone reception’s been jammed and all lines have been cut…big surprise there, huh?

Getting to the acting in this flick, most of it is pretty above average and more than competent, I must admit. Maybe not the most believable, but everyone, especially the lead actress and the villain characters, gave a full performance and did the best with what script they were given (despite some of the writing’s weaker nuances present). Their expressions fit the moments where drama was involved, and their lines of dialogue were slightly witty at times, with some hints of ironic, dark humor here and there, especially in the third act.

My fave part of this flick, aside from the bloody brilliant (pun intended) and sickly satisfying ending sequence which I will not spoil here has to be the lead actress, who does a real bang-up job at being not only the final girl or a scream queen but, more specifically, a real badass survivalist. She does everything in her power to keep kicking and fighting the baddies, utilizing some Kevin McCallister-esque wits and traps as well as some violent primal instinct in some portions. She’s resourceful as all hell.

The house & filming location for the film
The house & filming location for the film. Photo courtesy of

My biggest issue with this film, however, is the lack of likeable characters, which can be due in part to shoddy script or character development as a whole. You’ve got the typical; ‘you think he’s a do-gooder, but he actually turns out to be evil’ side character, the classic cynical annoying brat, the smug boyfriend no one likes, and who could forget the father figure who thinks he’s got everything figured out and under control, but it actually turns out he’s in over his head. Some of these are more bearable to watch than others. But, as mentioned before, the kills here are decently creative and gory, which makes up for a few of these faults and writing errs.

Unlike some others, I thought the humor was sufficient, and I’m content this one wasn’t turned into a full-on horror-comedy, instead opting for a moderately serious vibe. The cast here is hit or miss, but thankful a few of the unlikeable ones get killed off early on, so it’s not all that bad. Also, I thought that more could’ve been done in regards to the ending shot, which is something that made me laugh, but still somehow bothers me in the sense that I thought it was going to be a happy end to the madness, of all things. But, I digress.

All in all, You’re Next—while possessing a ton of tropes and some fairly obvious parts of tired imitation or overly exaggerated scenarios—still has just enough wits, sense of humor, blood and scenes of slasher movie badassery for it to get a solid recommend in my book. The movie sets a conflicting tone, though it does it in an effective manner that makes viewers feel like they’re observing a real-life Shakespeare play set in the modern era and directed by someone who’s watched too much 80s horror and can’t decide whether to do a comedy or tragedy. If you’re going to go into this one, do so with the expectation that you’re going in to watch a Scream film or a more fun and less serious rendition of The Strangers rather than a thought-provoking horror that’s trying to riddle with you.

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Written by Dave Rafalko

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