It's getting harder and harder these days to write, direct, and produce a quality horror film. We've had slasher films, ghost stories, monster movies, torture porn, and it seems the genre hit a rock bottom when "shark attack" became its own sub-genre. But, as is a prerequisite in not only crafting a good thriller, but film-making in general, there's always a way to reinvent the classics and keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Enter the age of the gimmick. Movies based (usually quite loosely) on actual events. Taglines to make even the best advertisers jealous. "Found footage" films. And every writer's backup go-to plot device, the "twist" ending. You're Next embraces the modern state of the genre and supplies us with not one, not two, but three gimmicks under one roof. There's not just one clever tagline, there are five. There isn't one twist at the end, but rather, two halfway through. And over half of the cast are up-and-coming horror directors, rather than A-list (or even D-list) actors.
But that only gets the viewers into the theaters. Keeping them in their seats is the real challenge. Director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett do this by combining a very real sense of dread and hopelessness with just enough tongue-in-cheek "wink and nod" humor that is not only self-referential, but actually, at times, quite clever. In a sense, they are not only making fun of the fact that the cast is full of almost entirely unlikable (excluding a couple obligatory fan favorite characters) making irrational decisions left and right, but also giving the audience enough opportunities to experience "ah-ha!" moments that seemed at first like glaring plot holes, but were actually well-thought-out red herrings or elaborate death scene setups. Average moviegoers will appreciate the script, but there is enough gratuitous nudity and gory violence for even the most jaded of horror veterans.
All in all, the acting is terrible, the plot can be explained in about a minute, and the budget is as low as they come. But that is part of what makes it such a good film. Every single person involved in this project seems to be fully embracing this fictional world, no matter how ridiculous or implausible it may seem. It's no The Strangers, regardless of how it was marketed. And it certainly doesn't hold a candle to Scream, as much as it will no doubt be compared to it in the weeks to come. But that doesn't really matter when it's all said and done. The fact will still remain that the film served its purpose because it will have done the three things a horror movie is supposed to do: It got you into your seats with an interesting premise. It kept you on the edge of your seat with enough twists and turns and jumps throughout. And it left you with something to say, critique, and think about as you got up from your seat.