8.42 out of 10
“You’re Next” is a pleasant surprise. Looking at the trailers it seemed like it was going to be another boring slasher film that tried to add a little suspense so they could call it “scary”. Well, the film may not be very scary, but it is remarkably well done and it is 95 minutes of entertainment. There are a couple issues with this film and they primarily deal with the cinematography. Director Adam Wingard went for some stylistic shots and they turned out to be bad choices. Had those issues been fixed this film could have rated even higher.
“You’re Next” is certainly more of a slasher film than a suspenseful horror, but it does add a few scenes with good tension and manages to be a well-rounded good time.
Any spoilers will be clearly marked so you can avoid reading them if you so choose.
“You’re Next” opens in Baltimore on August 23, 2013.
Let’s talk about the music and score first. Normally I don’t talk too much about the soundtrack unless it is really good or really bad. The score in “You’re Next” is so good I’m talking about it first. The three people credited for the score did a fantastic job of blending some classic horror riffs and styles with some updated techniques and new spins. The result is brilliant. At first, some of these pieces of music may sound out of place. You may think to yourself that they are detracting from the scene or killing the tension. But, as the music settles in and the scene unfolds you will realize that it is simply perfect.
Balance in a horror film is a slippery slope. Too much blood and you just have a gorefest with no real substance. Too little blood means you need to really nail the suspense and have a truly scary film. Too cheesy and the film becomes a joke. Too serious and most horror plots come off as just way too unbelievable. “You’re Next” managed to get this delicate balance just right. There are a few tension-building and “jump” scenes. There are a few tension-breaking funny lines. There is enough blood to make sure this is not a film relying on suspense, but not so much that it comes off as ridiculous. Amazingly enough, the whole film seems logical and realistic. This scenario could actually play out in real life like it unfolded onscreen. The writing by Simon Barrett is excellent.
The pacing is also well done. Much like a James Bond movie, “You’re Next” gives us a nice action scene to start everything off right and then steps back to introduce the characters and the story. But it doesn’t waste too much time on that and gets back to the mayhem rather quickly. As the movie progresses it only slows down in places where the story demands it; time to build some suspense, time to set up a funny line, etc.
The acting is serviceable. The only character we really care about is Erin (Sharni Vinson) and Sharni does a fine job with the character. Another one to point out would be the Drake character (Joe Swanberg). Joe gets the most out of his limited dialogue and managed to bring out a dynamic character. Everyone else does fine with his/her respective role. None of the acting gets too cheesy, but no one takes it too seriously either.
There really are only two odd style choices that took a lot away from this film. The first is the scene where the assailants first attack the family. This scene is by far the worst “shaky cam” I have ever seen. It goes on for several minutes and does not give your eyes or your head a break. I literally had to hold my notebook up in front of my eyes to make sure I didn’t get a headache or get nauseous. I get the point of the style. This is when the chaos begins and, in a panic, these people were probably seeing the world like this. The problem is when a human is sitting stationary and watching this crazy, shaking picture the effect is not the same as if the person was running around in that room. Our eyes and brain can handle the spastic pictures when our body is moving too. When we just sit there it is really hard to watch. I missed most of this scene because I just couldn’t take it.
The second scene with the bad choice is a real shame. The effect and the style are superb. The problem is that it went a little too long. All I can say to avoid spoilers is that it had to do with a flashing light. Had the scene been about half as long it would have been brilliant. But, once again, it takes a toll on your eyes and your brain.
The Bottom Line
“You’re Next” is an excellent horror film. It has the perfect blend of suspense, blood, music, style and tension-breaking moments. The film is actually quite realistic and the audience will buy everything that transpires. It’s actually a great entry film for people who are not fond of horror movies. There are a couple “jump” scenes, but the movie is not terrifying. Even people who don’t like gore may be able to stomach the amount of blood in this one. This film could have a sequel – the story may be a stretch – and I am hoping they make one. Horror is far from my favorite genre and it’s been a while since I have enjoyed one this much.