Happy Halloween! I planned to have more horror-related things for you over the last few days, but I’ll be honest — I’ve had a pretty awful week, and I just haven’t had the energy for writing much recently. However, this is my very favorite holiday of the year, and I simply couldn’t let it pass by without some kind of tribute.
So. If this blog has taught you anything about me, surely, it’s that I like to mock bad horror movies. (And that I’m inordinately fond of lists. And that I have an unhealthy attachment to the ellipses.) But sometimes, I actually like to watch the good stuff, too. Finding good horror movies is considerably harder than finding bad ones, but Mek and I figured we’d finally try out our luck with You’re Next.
Our luck was good. You’re Next is pretty awesome.
A family reunion is rudely interrupted by killers wearing stupid animal masks. But their home invasion doesn’t go entirely to plan because someone in that home knows how to fight back.
1. I was a little worried about this one. I’d read a ton of positive reviews for it, but I’d also read a ton of positive reviews for V/H/S (which was created by many of the same people) and I was deeply disappointed in that film. Thankfully, this movie was a lot more enjoyable. One of the main reasons?
Erin (Sharni Vinson) is great. I don’t want to talk too much about her above the Spoiler Section, but if you’re looking for awesome female characters in horror movies, you could do considerably worse than Erin.
2. Another positive: without ever descending into parody, there’s a surprising amount of humor in this movie. A lot of that’s tied into the family dynamic, which is effectively communicated without bogging the story down with needless exposition. A few interactions and a wide range of mostly exasperated facial expressions tell you all you need to know about how the siblings look at one another and what their respective relationships are with their parents.
What makes it funny is how this continues on even as people are trying to kill them. For example, the siblings are all arguing about who should try to make a run for the car, and Drake’s boasting that he’s the fastest, only he can’t because (spoiler redacted), while Amy’s all like, “I can do it! You guys never believe in me!” I laughed pretty hard.
3. Of course, because it’s a horror movie, some people still act like morons. There are some unforgivable acts of stupidity in You’re Next, with people assuming certain parts of the house are safe for reasons unknown, or hovering near places that are clearly not safe. These people drove me crazy.
4. Also, there are definitely more women standing around in their underwear than men. It’s not a ridiculous amount — this isn’t Hostel, for instance, which if memory serves is basically tits, tits, tits for the entire first fifteen minutes — but let’s not pretend it’s equal sexy representation, either. I think three different women get undressed in this movie, and not for any particular plot reason. Men, on the other hand? Well, I suppose one dude isn’t wearing clothes when he gets out of the shower. Of course, he’s not being used as shameless eye candy, either, and we only see him waist up, anyway. Otherwise, nope.
5. On a more positive note, if you grew up on Home Alone and can’t help but have nostalgic feels for it while at the same time knowing it’d be a bazillion times better if it was a horror movie? You should probably watch this. I think it may be the movie for you.
6. You’re Next also does some particularly nice things with character reversals. People who you don’t like at the beginning of the movie become surprisingly sympathetic by the end. There are definite scary movie character tropes here: the goth girl, the douchebag jock, the uber bitch, etc. But some of those characters are more layered than you would initially assume, which is always great to see. (I should be clear: that doesn’t apply to everybody in this movie. But I did genuinely enjoy some of them.)
7. Finally, I’m charging Netflix with a Minor Summary Fail for two reasons:
A. Masked hooligans? No. While I’m aware that hooliganism can be characterized as violent, I’m also aware that one of the synonyms for hooligan is ‘mischief-maker’. Mischief is not what’s happening in this movie. Mischief rarely comes with a body count. Unless maybe you’re a trickster god.
B. I have no idea why they characterize Erin as shy. That makes no sense to me, none. I don’t know if I’d describe her as, like, boisterous, but she certainly doesn’t strike me as shy. Is this because she’s a brunette?
There’s a lot more to talk about — some bad, mostly good — but I highly suggest that if you haven’t seen this movie yet, skip the Spoiler Section until you do.
I think it’s worth it.
The first people to die in this movie? The neighbors. They aren’t very important, but I do want to bring up two things:
A: After sex, the girl puts on her boyfriend’s shirt, although she can’t be bothered to button it up as she randomly walks around the house. Which, I suppose, is better than just strolling around purely topless. Still, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. It’s not just her whole here I am, sitting on the bed, drinking my drink, and here are my boobs thing either. It’s also the whole boyfriend shirt in the first place. I’m well aware that the Girl in her Boyfriend’s Shirt is a Hollywood sexy staple, and it doesn’t bother me for any real serious reason. Still, sometimes I can’t help but think, Woman, did you not bring your own clothes to the equation? Seriously, did you come to the house naked or something? You must have your own shirt somewhere around. I bet you could find it if you bothered to look.
B: More importantly, the killers paint YOU’RE NEXT on the sliding glass door in the dead girl’s blood.
This is the kind of typical behavior you expect from outright psychos who like to emotionally torture their victims before killing them, but as we’ll find out, these bad guys aren’t doing this merely for the joy of the kill. Primarily, they’re here for money. They’re mercs, see, and while I’ll admit to not personally knowing any mercenaries myself, the whole blood-on-the-wall thing feels a little absurdly sadistic for dudes who are just looking for a paycheck. (Assuming that none of them are Deadpool.) My guess is their penchant for writing YOU’RE NEXT in body fluids on nearby available surfaces has less to do with their own proclivities and more to do with the writers scrambling to come up with a title for that sounds scarier than Family Reunion and less spoiler-y than Christ, I Regret Having Children.
We then meet Crispian (AJ Bowen) and his GF, Erin, who are the first to arrive at his parents’ swanky yet unfortunately isolated vacation home. Crispian is funny and relatively likable, a grown up nerd who hasn’t managed to make much of himself, career-wise, much to the scorn of his older brother and, to an extent, his father. His mom, Aubrey, is actually played by Barbara Crampton (from Re-Animator fame), who I knew I recognized from something. (It’s so annoying when I have to cheat by looking at IMDb.) I bring her up specifically because I feel like the movie makes a few minor missteps around her character.
For example, Aubrey hears footsteps in the house one night and freaks out. Her husband can’t find anyone, though, and everyone comes to the conclusion that Aubrey must have imagined it — which, of course, she didn’t, because we later find out that the killers have actually been holing up inside the house. It’s good that someone hears footsteps — other than just generally being spooky, it’s decent foreshadow for the Killer’s Nest discovery later on — but I don’t love that the mom’s set up to be unreliable because she’s on some type of medication. It just feels unnecessary. In general, I wish Aubrey was a little more compelling. Her main character trait appears to be weakness, which is kind of unfortunate.
The next day, the rest of the kids and their respective significant others arrive. They proceed to have an awkward family dinner which is broken up in a very abrupt fashion when Amy’s boyfriend, Tariq (Ti West) takes an arrow to the forehead.
Admit it. You’ve fantasized about scenarios like this during painful Thanksgivings before, haven’t you?
Once everyone fully realizes what’s happened — and I LOVE that some people take longer to catch on than others — everyone appropriately freaks the hell out. Douchebag Brother, Drake (Joe Swanberg), takes an arrow to the back while saving his mother’s life, which is the first glimpse we get that he’s not as awful as originally assumed. In fact, when I mentioned character reversals earlier, I was primarily thinking about him. Drake seems doomed to die at first — and he is — because he’s a gigantic asshat bully who constantly sucks up to his parents and needles his siblings and their dates for the hell of it. He is clearly the Grown Up Jock to Crispian’s Grown Up Nerd.
At the same time, though, Drake’s the first one up and running when he hears his mom screaming from upstairs, despite the fact that he’s got an arrow sticking out of his fucking back. He actually cares about his siblings, even planning to run after Crispian (who has long since disappeared outside) in order to protect him. Because it’s not that he isn’t a giant tool; it’s just not all he is, which is kind of cool. Also, he survives so improbably long that you can’t help but root for him. Sadly, he doesn’t make it, and his death scene is surprisingly sad (and darkly amusing). But I’m skipping ahead.
Erin — who will quickly show herself to be frighteningly competent in the face of masked killer adversity — gets everyone together. They realize no one has cell phone service, which is weird because they all had service just that afternoon. Felix (Nicholas Tucci), the youngest brother, suggests that the killers are using a jammer, and Drake takes the time to snipe that of course Felix knows about cell phone jammers, the sketchy bastard.
A few things about this:
A. I love that the killers are actually using a cell phone jammer, that it’s not just oh, look, we happen to be vacationing in this random spot of the woods where we don’t have cell service. Hope that doesn’t get us into trouble. (Not that this doesn’t happen, of course. I’ve even reluctantly been dragged to such places myself, but the jammers still make for a welcome change.)
B. The best part about Felix getting called out on his sketchy knowledge is that, spoilers, Felix IS a bad guy.
Mekaela asked me if I thought anyone in the family was in on the home invasion, and maybe I was just having a slow day, but I said no and was proven wrong. Couple of times, even. Dammit.
But we don’t know this yet. Everyone argues about what to do next, and though Erin advises staying inside, it’s decided — based on Felix’s suggestion, awesomely — that Amy will try to run for one of the cars to go get help. I think we all know who is about to die next.
Obviously, this wasn’t going to end well, but Mek and I weren’t sure how Amy was going to go out. I’ll admit, I was fully thinking harpoon. But I was wrong again: it’s actually piano wire that’s been strung up across the porch. Amy runs straight into it. With her NECK. Ouch.
(Before I forget, a favorite part: at some point, Drake runs out the door and tries to duck under the wire, to avoid the same fate. He doesn’t get sliced up, but he does forget about the arrow sticking out of his back, so of course that arrow smacks straight into the wire. Laughed my ass off.)
After Amy dies, Aubrey becomes a weeping mess. I mean, legitimately, because her daughter just died. Unfortunately, it’s decided to leave her alone upstairs so she can rest — because everybody in this house has suddenly become a moron, even my beloved Erin. Look, I can see how Aubrey’s not gonna be real helpful right now, and sure, maybe the upstairs might seem a little safer than the downstairs. I certainly can’t blame them for not knowing one of the killers is already in the house, much less that they were hired to be there by actual members of the family.
But guys, even taking that into consideration, the second-story isn’t so secure that anybody should just be left alone there. I mean, these dudes are devious. We already know they’ve got crossbows and piano wire booby traps. Is it so much of a stretch to think they might have a ladder or something? Climbing skills? Grenades? Firebombs? NOBODY SHOULD BE LEFT ALONE, PEOPLE.
Well, Aubrey is left alone, and is quickly murdered by the dude hiding under her bed.
Everyone runs upstairs and is understandably shocked by the discovery. Less understandably, the group does not immediately search the house or even the room together. Instead, everyone else goes hangs out a ways down the stairs while Kelly, Drake’s wife, lingers around by herself for no fucking reason at all.
This might even be more unacceptable. Kelly! What the HELL are you doing investigating on your own? At least Aubrey didn’t know a killer was already inside. YOU cannot claim any such ignorance. While I applaud your wish to search the room — because it intensely bothers me that everyone’s like, Holy shit, the killers are in the house! So . . . let’s just chill on the stairs, shall we? — at least they’re chilling on the stairs together. You know the reason more people don’t survive horror movies? Because they insist on doing everything by themselves or with only one other person, usually their SO/love interest/fuck puppet. You need to approach your horror movie scenario like you’d approach a team sport. There needs to be a game plan. You all need to be doing shit together. There is no ‘I’ in team, Kelly.
Of course, there’s also no ‘I’ in dead meat but . . . whatever. Basically, what happens is this: Kelly looks under the bed and sees the masked killer who murdered Aubrey. (He really likes it under there. It’s cozy.) Again, her immediate freakout is perfectly legitimate. Less legitimate: Kelly not only runs out of the room but past everybody without telling them that she just found one of the killers. Instead, she goes screaming into the night, running for the (already dead) neighbors.
Now, I’m all for characters making cowardly and selfish choices, but this just strikes me as dumb. On one hand, you know exactly where the killer is and you can easily confront him with five other people at your back while he’s busy wriggling out of an enclosed space. (Admittedly, two of your brothers are evil, but you have no way of knowing that, and I think they’d probably help you kill the dude in the mask rather than risk their cover. After all, there are other bad guys outside who can still kill you, and anyway, that’s less people they have to pay.) Or you can not tell them and go take your chances outside by yourself when you know there has to be at least one other bad guy and quite possibly more awful death traps. Yeah, that sounds like a plan.
Kelly, I have a hard time feeling sorry for you when you die, and not just because you dislike Erin solely based on her supposedly grating Australian accent. (And really? Who even thinks that? People in horror movies: please stop representing America. We have enough image problems, thank you.)
Let’s see, what happens after that? Well, in a rough but probably not perfectly chronological order:
A. People continue to look out windows, despite what happened to Tariq.
B. Crispian leaves the house on foot, supposedly looking for help.
C. Erin reveals that she grew up in some survivalist compound and is therefore awesome. Things she does throughout the movie: board up windows, set up her own killer booby traps, temporarily blind a dude with a camera, and kill several bad guys. She even gets one with a kitchen appliance in a serious bid for Best Death of 2014. (Although Drake’s death is also a nominee, for pure meanness.)
D. Erin kills her first bad guy. (Not with the kitchen appliance. That’s later.)
E. Dad discovers the Secret Killer Nest and is promptly murdered by one of the bad guys. (There are three bad guys: Lamb Mask, Fox Mask, and Tiger Mask, but for the life of me, I don’t remember who does what, only that two of the dudes are brothers.)
F. Felix and his vaguely gothic girlfriend, Zee (Wendy Glenn), reveal that they’re evil and hired the killers in order to get the inheritance money. Zee also reveals that she is particularly psychotic when she strips down and wants to have sex with Felix next to his dead mother.
Felix, to my intense relief, is pretty much like, “Uh, ew, how about no? What the fuck’s wrong with you?” Felix, see, is a greedy, selfish, and occasionally whiny asshat of epic proportions, but surprisingly, I still kind of like him. He remains funny, which is great. I seriously love this movie’s sense of humor.
G. Of course, Felix’s charm takes a hit when he kills poor Drake.
You have to feel bad for this guy. He’s lost his parents, his wife, and his sister, all in one night. He wants to protect his few remaining loved ones, and he’s still miraculously alive after getting shot with an arrow (and pulling it out, like a moron). And then he’s killed by his own brother, like, stabbed multiple times. The fucker even has the nerve to talk about how hard this is for him.
Drake, buddy. I’m sorry, dude. Sure, you’re a tool, but you didn’t deserve this.
H. Erin sets up an axe booby-trap on the front door that I predicted would end in killing either Crispian or a cop.
I. Erin jumps through a glass window. I mention this specifically because it’s nice to see that she’s actually cut up and stunned for a minute instead of being perfectly okay. On the other hand, she goes through that window head first and isn’t dead, so, it’s a mixed bag on the realism factor.
J. Erin discovers that Felix and Zee are bad guys and manages to take both them and the other two masked killers out. It’s Felix she kills with a kitchen appliance, specifically, a blender to the head.
K. Before Felix dies, he turns the cell phone jammer off. Felix’s phone rings, and Erin picks it up. This is how she discovers that Crispian is not only alive but also in on it with Felix and Zee. Their reunion scene, where Crispian explains how Erin was supposed to live as a witness and how they can still be together, is nothing short of perfection. Seriously, the humor in this move is spot on. I heart it something fierce.
L. Erin rightly decides that Crispian’s an asshole and kills him. Unfortunately, a cop has finally made his way to the house and shoots her, thinking she’s the bad guy. Luckily for her, she’s only injured, not dead. Unluckily for him, he decides to go through the front door instead of hopping through the broken window that everyone else has been choosing as an entrance instead.
Well, at least I got one thing right.
And that, my friends, is the end of the movie. I didn’t stick around to see if there was a post-credits scene because you can’t on Netflix Instant — they’re already trying to get you to watch their next fucking film — but I like to think that if there had been one, it would’ve been Erin desperately trying to explain her way out of this mess. “Officer, I SWEAR the axe seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Yeah. I think Erin’s gonna have a hard time selling that.
Crispian: “It’s been a long time since we’ve all been together, so it should be . . . interesting.”
Felix: “I’m not really in the mood right now, Zee.”
Zee: “Come on, I’ll make it quick. I want you to fuck me on this bed next to your dead mom.”
Felix: “What? Why would you even say something like that?”
Zee: “You never want to do anything interesting.”
Felix: “I don’t think that’s a fair criticism.”
Amy: (sobbing) “I’m the fastest! Nobody ever gives me credit for anything!”
(Paul picks up a poker or something before he goes to investigate a suspicious noise)
Paul: “I’ll take this with me, okay? Are you happy?”
Felix: “Would you just die already? This is hard enough for me!”
Erin: “Thanks for your help, by the way.”
Felix: “You seemed to have a handle on it.”
Crispian: “Is it over? Look, I know you’re pissed at me for not helping out. I just, I couldn’t do it, man. I told you this might happen. I saw Mom and the blood and I — you know I’m a pacifist, I can’t, I can’t deal with the violent stuff.”
Crispian: “Where’s Felix?”
Erin: “I stuck a blender in his head and killed him.”
Crispian: “Oh. Okay.”
Crispian: “Where is Zee?”
Erin: “I killed her too.”
Crispian: “Ah. Totally understand.”
Crispian: “Listen, I’m sorry things got so out of control, but um, how were we supposed to know you were really good at killing people? Which is actually sort of weird, by the way? Had you reacted, um, normally, my parents and siblings would have been killed, you’d have been untouched, and we’d be rich. We’d be on our way to like a vacation in Paris. Maybe an engagement?”
Crispian: “I understand it might take a while to make this up to you, but in the meantime, let’s think about this logically.”
Pretty solid horror film, and I think it’s one I’ll like more each time I watch it. (Actually, I’m sure that’ll be the case, since so many scenes take on a new meaning once you know that three of the supposed possible victims are actually bad guys. Like Drake asking Crispian, “Why would anybody do this?” Ouch.) I’m still a little annoyed at characters who do intensely dumb things, but Erin’s one of my favorite final girls in a long time, and I really enjoyed how this movie balanced the humor with the horror.
Sharni Vinson, I think, because this movie really needs her to be both convincing and likable to work, and that’s rarely found in horror movie leads. But AJ Bowen and Nicholas Tucci were other potentials.
Once people start dropping dead, you are no longer allowed to do anything by yourself.
Also, don’t procreate, at least not if you have any money, because there’s a more than decent chance that half of your kids will become greedy little sociopaths who will kill you and your other children just to get themselves out of debt. It’s entirely possible that you failed to teach them the valuable lesson of sharing when they were young. Also that murder, particularly kinslaying, is strongly frowned upon in most modern societies. And in Game of Thrones.