Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #157
Number of Views: One
Release Date: September 10, 2011 (Toronto International Film Festival), 23 August 2013 (USA)
Sub-Genre: Eighties Slasher
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 95 minutes
Director: Adam Wingard
Producers: Simon Barrett, Keith Calder, Kim Sherman, Jessica Wu
Screenplay: Simon Barrett
Special Effects: Mike Strain Jr, Brooke Thompson (Fantasy Creations FX)
Visual Effects: Marcus Stokes, Christopher Joseph
Cinematography: Andrew Droz Palermo
Score: Mads Heldtberg, Jasper Justice Lee, Kyle McKinnon
Editing: Adam Wingard
Studio: HanWay Films, Snoot Entertainment
Distributor: Lionsgate, Icon Film Distribution
Stars: Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, A. J. Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Barbara Crampton, Rob Moran, Margaret Laney, Amy Seimetz,Ti West, Lane Hughes, L.C. Holt, Simon Barrett, Larry Fessenden, Kate Lyn Sheil, Calvin Reeder, Larry Fessenden, Kate Lyn Sheil (uncredited)
Suggested Audio Candy
Dwight Twilley Band “Looking For The Magic”
There aren’t many occasions as daunting as that first time your partner takes you home to meet the family. Who knows what kind of messed-up shenanigans are in store? It is the moment at dinner when you are handed the gravy boat to reveal that your new suitor’s mother has cloven hooves or the macabre game of footsy being played out by the doddery gran as she slides her teeth back in and gives you a knowing wink. We know the signs and that primary introduction to the brood offers the acid test.
Keeper himself has landed himself in hot water a number of times, one particularly memorable outing involving a violent drunk mother and a kitchen knife which was waved about my face no sooner than I had uttered the words “it’s a pleasure to meet you”. The pleasure, as it transpired, was not mine on that occasion and, although I still bedded down at her abode, I sleep with both eyes well and truly open.
We can choose our suitor and, dependent on how rigorous our selection process, can do a fairly astute job of side-stepping any unhinged head cases. The one factor which is out of our hands is the in-laws, a potentially heavenly match can be tainted should the folks not approve or, worse still, be off their rockers. Nevertheless its a necessary pursuit which comes to us all in the end. For Erin, that primary encounter is a fairly decent advertisement into remaining free and single.
You’re Next had actually been in circulation for a couple of years after Lionsgate snapped up the rights and shelved it foolishly. Finally in 2013 they took it to the wider audience it richly deserved. Director Adam Wingard may be familiar to y’all as the guy in V/H/S/2 who has the ill-fated retinal operation during the opening segment Phase I Clinical Trials. He also teamed up with screenwriter buddy Simon Barrett on the Q vignette from The ABCs of Death and has already knocked out full-length features Home Sick, Pop Skull and A Horrible Way To Die on the path which has led him here.
He is clearly one of the most promising talents on the circuit right now and travels in the tight circle which includes Jason Eisener, Gareth Evans and Ti West so he is in stellar company. You’re Next is the closest he has come to more mainstream territory and enjoyed a limited theatrical run where it garnered favorable critical response. Two years later, it has finally reached our screens and comes with a fair degree of weight upon its broad shoulders.
So after the swirling undercurrents of hype have created a fair frenzy amongst horror aficionados, we are left with the burning question: is You’re Next actually as good as it’s cracked up to be? I am ever so pleased to report that this is an affirmative. After being met with relative praise upon its eventual theatrical release it has continued to pick up a head of steam, fast becoming a bit of a slasher fan favorite in the process. I’m here to tell you that it’s justified.
The premise is rudimentary at best. Erin and her beau Crispian travel back to his folks for an anniversary get together and, upon arrival of the entire brood, sibling rivalry commences and we get a glimpse at the dysfunctional Davisons as they round the table for some good old-fashioned petulant needling and a dash of belittling. The family, which include parents Barbara Crampton of Re-Animator and From Beyond and Rob Moran from any number of Farrelly Brothers movies, don’t see eye to eye and it rapidly declines into a vitriolic free-for-all with poor Erin no doubt beginning to question her selection.
The shit then hits the back wall in glorious style as three mask-headed militants set to work on trimming the table numbers. This is achieved through a number of long-range attacks and cunning traps, leading to some delectable surprises. Wingard handles these expertly and with a great deal of gory relish. Think Haute Tension and you will be somewhere in the ball park although here there are twice as many lemmings to obliterate.
Wingard has a particularly keen eye (and no, not the one he gouged out of his own face in V/H/S/2). He uses a number of techniques to achieve the desired effect and enjoys nothing more than getting all up in our grills. He is aided by Andrew Droz Palermo whose stylish cinematography sits perfectly alongside the sparse audio arrangement. As time wears on, this transmogrifies into full-blown eighties synth score and there is never a bad time for that. In addition, we are treated to the same track on loop as a running joke throughout, stemming from a rather impressive opening five which bolts from the gates like a diarrhea-stricken mule.
The real mutton and spuds comes courtesy of some spiffing animosity between the sparring dinner guests which escalates after the bodies begin to hit the floor. On their own they’re probably all very amiable but, put them all in one room, and the pleasantries go out the window. Meanwhile, the crossbow bolts hurtle in with delightful results. Note to self… never run for help!
The adept cast perform universally well but a few phosphorescent souls in particular shine out. AJ Bowen (House of The Devil) again impresses as Silent Bobalike Crispian, while Joe Swanberg is off the chain as his priggish brother Drake. Former Aussie soap starlet Sharni Vinson meanwhile cements herself as a real one to watch giving a believably plucky account of herself as Erin. Ti West even gets his hands mucky, although his stay is cut somewhat short.
There is plenty of meat on these here bones and, in moments of circumstantial comedy noir, it has rather delicious seasoning. Every now and then the action lets up and it is here that we are privileged with the exposure to Simon Barrett’s writing skills. Plentiful irony, back (and front) stabbing and a triumphant instance with a food blender all keep things moving in exactly the right direction while it never strays from playing it straight down the line.
By the end the obvious plot twists have joined forces to attempt at lessening our experience but, by this point, Wingard has us by the pig-tails and is mirthfully shafting us with his lens so it all becomes trivial. It is unclear as yet as to how time will tell for You’re Next but one thing is markedly clear. As home invasion movies go, Bryan Bertino’s The Strangers and David Moreau & Xavier Palud’s Them springing straight from the old Hippocampus, it’s up there with the very best of them.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: Quite the spread laid on here by Wingard and chums. Our killers have clearly stocked up at the hardware store before commencement and come tooled up with crossbows, axes and hunting knives. In addition, there are the traps and one hapless victim in particular is snared in spectacular style. Never overtly gory, You’re Next is more content with steadily siphoning the red coulis.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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