Film Capsule: You’re Next

OK, so there’s this house, see, and it’s like waaaaay out in the wilderness, right? I mean like sooooo far out that you can’t even get, like, cell phone service or internet access, y’dig? And so, then there’s, like, this tight-knit circle of people, right, and they’re all like friends or maybe even like a … like a … like a group of college students or something. And so what it is is that they’ve all kind of, like, agreed to, like … like travel all the way out to this remote destination for, like a, like a … like a quiet getaway weekend or some such. Only what they don’t know – what nobody knows – is that there’s this unspeakable fucking evil right out there in the midst of all this with them … some unknown quantity, say, that almost definitely seeks to split their ranks and swallow them whole. All of ’em. Every single goddamn one. Kill those motherfuckers! Skin ’em raw! Reign in blood! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

We’re all familiar with this type of thing, correct? I mean, it’s the essential combination that made movies like Psycho and The Shining and Friday the 13th and Halloween and The Blair Witch Project and April Fool’s Day and The Strangers and Silent House and Cabin In The Woods entirely possible (if not consistently plausible). Hell, I’d even go so far as to say it’s the one essential ingredient that put the final hour of Jaws completely over the top. Spielberg himself made a point of insisting that the Orca never be shot with any hint of Martha’s Vineyard in the background. Land meant civilization. Civilization meant safe harbor. Safe harbor meant no shark. No shark meant those three fuckers on the Orca were no longer in a tizzy. And so there was no land shot in the backdrop. And you know what? It worked. It absolutely fucking worked. As a matter of fact it worked so well that Jaws went on to become not only a classic staple of both the Drama and the Horror genres, but also the highest grossing motion picture of all-time (right up until Star Wars).

So goes the story with You’re Next – a much-smaller-yet-equally welcome addition to the horror/suspense genre that relies almost entirely upon an age-old formula in order to keep the adrenaline flowing. Here we find a dysfunctional family wrought with an engaging back story. We find an enviable balance between heightened tension and gallows humor. We find enough to love and fear that it keeps the well from running dry. And, all things considered, we find just about everything else any movie fan could ask for in a low-budget thriller of this order.

What’s more, we find a breakout star – a virtual unknown in the hallowed tradition of Nightmare on Elm Street’s Johnny Depp or Halloween‘s Jamie LeeIn this case, it’s a 30-year old Aussie beaut by the name of Sharni Vinson. From the moment she appears on-screen, she’s the only character that you can actually see yourself investing in (let alone rooting for), which – in turn – makes her almost indispensable to the plot.

There’s more, of course. There’s the fact that this film has virtually been sitting on a shelf since its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in September of 2011. There’s the fact that it includes various nods to John Carpenter’s Halloween (not to mention A Nightmare on Elm Street and even Black Sabbath). But rather than ruin anything by delving into details, I’ll simply go on record as saying You’re Next is a highly entertaining, utterly suspenseful, unrepentantly gory good time at the movies. Believe it or not, that type of motion picture is incredibly rare these days (Take a look at the critical response to this summer’s top 10 blockbusters for further evidence of this). I recommend that you go see it in theaters, preferably at a cinema where the in-house management will all but force you to keep from playing with your cell phone. In fact, why not just go watch it at a big ole’ house way out in the middle of nowhere. Better yet, invite a bunch of friends out there to enjoy the movie with you. Have yourself a goddamn weekender, why don’t cha? What’s the worst thing that could happen?

(You’re Next opens in theaters nationwide today.)