“You’re Next” is the second home invasion movie of this summer, and the third horror movie where a happy home is corrupted by violence. Then, in a week, when “Insidious: Chapter 2” opens, there will be four in a row. These kinds of stories have been around a long time, but why does this story need to be told so urgently right now? Carol Clover coined the horror movie trope, “terrible place:” a space that seems safe, like a house, but with the appearance of the villain is transformed into a trap. When horror gets in the home it’s the ultimate violation of safety. Maybe the movies have caught up with all the worries over US housing foreclosures and homes worth less than their mortgages. Or maybe we live in an uncertain time where even the safest things seem less guaranteed.
To celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary, a wealthy couple (Barbara Crampton and Rob Moran) have their children and their partners stay over at their spacious rural home. During dinner, three men wearing rabbit masks assault the home; two from the outside and one whose been camping out in a closet upstairs. They shoot at the occupants with arrows through the windows, disable the cars, set up a cell phone signal blocker, and place a trap outside the front door. They proceed to pick everyone off one by one.
The minds of the occupants begin working differently under this intense pressure. One woman freaks out, one couple becomes withdrawn, and others make plans to defend themselves. The most resourceful and most brutally violent is Erin (Sharni Vinson), the pacifist girlfriend of one the son’s (AJ Bowen). In this extraordinary situation, she reveals herself to have a hidden skill for killing people. And she begins taking on the killers one at a time, singlehandedly.
The movie owes something to the novel “Off Season” by Jack Ketchum, which is the apotheosis of this kind of story. A group of average people gather in a cabin in rural Maine, and one night are assaulted by a feral family of inbreeds, who’ve developed a taste for the other white meat. As they fight back, the average people discover they not only posses the same skills for killing and maiming that their seemingly inhuman attackers do, but also on some level, are thrilled by it. Do the extreme actions of these seemingly benevolent people prove that their values, molded by society are only an illusion?
“You’re Next” doesn’t strive for the higher realms of horror the way “Off Season” does. It favours the set ‘em up and knock ‘em down formula. It’s all standard stuff and mostly predictable.
Despite its familiarity, it does the formula much better than most horror movies. There’s constant suspense that starts at the beginning and permeates the whole movie. In one scene, there’s a close-up of someone hammering a nail into a board. I was impressed by how effectively even something as simple as that became an effective source of tension.
We get a lot of the familiar kind of scares where there’s a tight shot on someone investigating something unusual, then someone jumps out and attacks them. And then there’s the sudden, loud noises coming from another room. All these things are scary and maintain the suspense.
And of course there’s the gratuitous female nudity. There’s one scene where a husband and wife are talking in a bedroom. The scene serves no other purpose than to culminate with the guy fondling his wife after she gets out of the shower.
There’s one other thing I hesitate to mention because I don’t think it effected my viewing experience too much, but it’s tied to my recollection of the movie. There were two people in the theatre who decided to launch a very loud and sustained verbal attack at the screen for the movie’s entire duration. It stuck in my mind because it’s the worst behaviour I’ve seen in a movie theatre to date. And that includes the time I saw an argument between two guys almost break out into a fistfight in front of the screen. No wonder more and more people are choosing home entertainment.
***1/2 (out of 5)
David Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org