Film: You’re Next

There’s an unrealistic, if eye-catching, hook at the center of slasher film You’re Next (2011): the killers paint those very words on the walls of their victims’ homes, in blood, to terrify their next target. While this activity makes absolutely no sense in the context of the plot underlying the events of this horror thriller, it does at least speak to the semi-comical tone of its gory, violent spectacle.

Erin (Sharni Vinson) is the Australian girlfriend of English professor Crispian (A.J. Bowen), tagging along as he joins his family for a reunion at his parents’ country estate. Crispian’s wealthy, powerful clan made its money in the defense industry, and as its members and their plus-ones gather, the combative, awful nature of their lineage starts to emerge. Just as the group’s argumentative toxicity reaches its peak, a crossbow bolt crashes through the dining room window to kill one of them—and it’s just the first of many such attacks. Who is attacking the house, and why? The survivors are too busy staying alive to find out. But Erin, as it happens, grew up in a commune of doomsday preppers, and it turns out she’s really good at defending herself, giving her an exceptional chance at solving the blood-soaked mystery.

You’re Next isn’t particularly deep or exceptional, but it’s a decent, low-budget action film that might be an ancestor to films like Ready or Not or The Menu: a clever, murderous romp that chooses deserving targets who swim in ill-gotten privilege. That scenario runs subservient, perhaps, to the beats of the plot, which plays out in a reasonably methodical way, even as it makes nonsense of the titular message. Fortunately, it has an excellent central hero in Vinson, whose character amusingly makes a monkey out of an entire family that made its fortune off of faraway death and destruction—but are decidedly hapless in the face of actual violence. Given the promising structural and thematic core, it could have used a deeper layer of satire to elevate it, but fans of this type film will get a kick out of watching its war of attrition unfold.

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