There is no more easily maligned horror sub-genre than the slasher film. With a few notable exceptions (the original Halloween and the first Scream) slasher movies are bargain basement exploitation films judged solely on the amount of gore and nudity. You're Next is the rare exception in a genre that caters to the lowest common denominator in that it has a brain in its bloody head. It also has a compelling heroine, played by Aussie Sharni Vinson, whose screen presence carries the whole film and actually makes you care what happens, an unusual occurrence in these movies.
Paul and Aubrey (Rob Moran and Barbara Crampton) are cultured and affluent, with four grown children. The family gathers at Paul and Aubrey's massive country house for their wedding anniversary. Crispian (AJ Bowen) brings his girlfriend Erin (Vinson) to meet the family, which includes his brother Drake (indie director Joe Swanberg) and his wife Kelly (Margaret Laney), brother Felix (Nicolas Tucci) and Felix's girlfriend Zee (Olivia Wilde lookalike Wendy Glenn) and baby sister Aimee (Amy Seimetz), who brings along her new boyfriend, documentary filmmaker Tariq (Ti West, talented director of horror films House of the Devil and The Innkeepers). The cast is a reunion in itself, a who's who of independent film.
The movie takes its time establishing the characters and the tension between the siblings before all hell breaks loose in the form of three masked assailants who appear and begin picking off the family members. Without giving too much away, I will say that when the attack comes, it is shocking and well executed (pardon the pun). It becomes clear that at least one of the maniacs has been in the house all along, and a cat and mouse game ensues centering around Erin, who demonstrates a resourcefulness and resolve born of a past I dare not spoil.
Director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett pour on the violence once the chaos begins, but it is not gore for the sake of gore. Fans of horror certainly won't be disappointed; the movie is well done on a technical level, and the filmmakers know their way around an effective "gotcha" moment. I won't reveal the motivations behind the killings; suffice it to say it is not a mindless murderous rampage. By the time people are killed, the audience is fully invested in the situation and the characters, and when the twists come (and keep coming) they feel earned.
One of the best things about the film is Sharni Vinson, who creates in Erin a bad ass female protagonist in the vein of Ellen Ripley. I found myself caring about her a lot more than I thought I would when the film began. When was the last time a slasher film made you care about the characters beyond the order in which they are slaughtered?