At first glance, You’re Next appears to be your typical home invasion flick. A wealthy couple moves into a decadent country manor and invites their four children and their significant others to spend their wedding anniversary with them. Everything is fine and dandy, albeit awkward and tense due to the family’s strained relationship, until a group of masked strangers enter the property and pick the Davisons and their guests off one by one with a large arsenal of intense weapons (the crossbow is a nice touch).
I’ve mostly avoided modern configurations of this sub-genre due to their utter predictability; everybody dies or one person survives the bloodbath, the assailants are usually ominous, masked murders with unexplained prerogatives (See The Strangers starring Liv Tyler for a good example of this). The home invasion film is usually plagued with futility, which can make for an interesting plot narrative the first couple times around, then eventually gets mind-numbingly boring since even the most unperceptive audience members can usually predict the fate of the characters from the first fifteen minutes of the film.
One of the brilliant features of the home invasion sub genre is that its psychological implications can never really go out of fashion. The setting of the home has always reflected our innate concern with comfort and safety; we can sort of understand why a group of teenagers is slaughtered by a killer in a godforsaken part of the wilderness, or a family is killed off one by one by a malignant group of mutant hill people in the middle of nowhere in the desert. As viewers, we are able to rationalize why these characters are in a position of imminent danger – either they make irrational decisions and almost deserve what’s coming, or they find themselves in an unfortunate set of circumstances that are simply out of their control.
But once you’re out of the woods and back to the creature comforts of civilization, any semblance of danger fades away. The home invasion flick undermines our automatic association of home with safety and recalls instances of real life murders and burglaries, giving the sub genre an unavoidably realist quality that will make you want to board up your windows and lock your doors… Just in case.
You’re Next is the perfect mix of old and new. It recycles many of the same tropes used by its predecessors, while updating them for a modern audience. At first, it does not appear that the killers have any distinct motive, and we are conditioned to think they are just murdering the family for fun, however that myth is soon debunked and much to our surprise, the actual reason manages to avoid being super lame.
The film assaults the audience with unexpected twists and turns that not even the most astute viewer could predict beforehand; it keeps you guessing well after the closing scene. The relationships between all the characters are masterfully developed – the family members (for the most part) seem to love and tolerate, but not like each other. We are given insight into all their idiosyncrasies and their (often severe) hang-ups, but if anything, it makes them more human. They come across as real people you could actually know, and this has a monumental impact when you’re trying to garner empathy for a character that is getting chased around by a guy with a machete.
Without divulging too much, Erin (Sharni Vinson) – the Australian girlfriend of one of the sons – is the film’s crown jewel. She’s an updated version of the typical female survivor, and rather than slinking away from danger, she faces it head on. She has a mix of Ellen Ripley’s cunning and Xena the Warrior Princess’ ruthlessness, and is quite possibly one of the most awesome female protagonists to ever set foot in a horror film. Its always nice to see a female character who isn’t tossed in as the token femme fatale, innocent virgin or sex symbol – she is a well rounded, well developed character who serves an important purpose and the fact she is a woman is not discussed or particularly pertinent to the plot.
You’re Next is a great modern reboot of the home invasion film, and deserves positive recognition. It will have you yelling and pleading at the TV and is a must-see for any adrenaline junkie.