MRR Review: "You're Next"

Photo Credit: Lionsgate

MRR Review: "You're Next"

Rating: R (strong bloody violence, language, and some sexuality/nudity)
Length: 95 minutes
Release Date: Aug. 23, 2013
Directed by: Adam Wingard
Genre: Horror/Thriller

Paul Davison (Rob Moran) has just lost his job with a defense contractor, but that's no reason to feel sorry for him. He got a severance package that will have him and his self-medicating wife, Aubrey (Barbara Crampton), living like royalty for the rest of their lives. To celebrate, he has decided to bring together his children, Drake (Joe Swanberg), Crispian (A.J. Bowen), Aimee (Amy Seimetz), and Felix (Nicholas Tucci). The family hasn't come together in quite some time, so Paul decides they should all meet in their remote vacation home and have a big dinner party.

The dinner party turns into a disaster on several levels, beginning with the fact that the four siblings can't seem to stop bickering. Aimee feels left out and overlooked, especially by her dad; Crispian is dating the much-younger Erin (Sharni Vinson) and gets raked over the coals for it by Drake, who is as smug as his wife Kelly (Margaret Laney); and Felix is the black sheep of the family with a weird girlfriend named Zee (Wendy Glenn). The bickering is interrupted when one of the guests gets hit in the head with an arrow, a warning shot from a group of three murderers wearing creepy animal masks who attack the house with the intent of killing the other nine people who remain.

The family and their guests must work together to try and stay alive, but this is much easier said than done. None except the surprising Erin is equipped mentally or even physically to try and ward off a killer. They continue to argue and take emotional swipes at each other, even as they lie bleeding and possibly dying. Will this highly dysfunctional family figure out how to survive, or will they have to rely on the courageous Erin? If they do rely on Erin, will this one girl with nerves of steel really be able to stop the killers on her own?

The indie movie scene has a niche known as "mumblecore" that focuses on dialogue between characters in most scenes, allowing these films to be made on shoestring budgets without flashy production values. "You're Next" is a part of the logical next step of the mumblecore movement into genre films, dubbed "mumblegore." The name is very apt for "You're Next," because the film is full of verbal character interactions that allow the audience to really get a sense of who the characters are and why they might be targeted by the masked villains who are pursuing them. It's important to note that the film has action and special effects in many scenes, but dialogue is still a central part of the action, creating a nice mesh of horror and mumblecore. Part of the reason for the dialogue is to save money versus a big-budget action film with lots of special effects, but part of it is to make a character-driven film. Not every horror movie has a lot of development when it comes to characters, so this is a nice surprise that could help put the newly-minted mumblegore genre on the map and bring new movie fans into the horror fold.

The real standout among all of the characters is Erin, played by Aussie newcomer Vinson. She is the only one at the dinner table who really seems out of place in the overly posh setting. She is not from this world of country clubs and caviar, and it shows once the killers begin stalking everyone in the house. She is a survivor and will fight until the bitter end to defend herself, unlike the others, who seem content to cower in a corner until someone comes to save them. Vinson plays Erin as a strong, determined woman who is a force to be reckoned with. She may not be very well known stateside, but if she continues to stand out in films like this one, that may all change very soon.

"You're Next" is more than just a blend of mumblecore and horror. The film adds a healthy dose of dark comedy to the mix, and some lines are sure to make viewers laugh even as some rather nefarious things are going on. It also has a few plot twists that make it a true thriller and potentially the sleeper hit of the summer. With its small budget and the big buzz going into opening weekend, "You're Next" stands a great chance of becoming a box-office sensation. If so, it won't be a surprise to see many more mumblegore movies coming soon to theaters.

Rating: 3 out of 5