Director Luis Buñuel would be proud of the scabrous scene in which the Davison clan sits down to supper and the civilized bourgeois meal turns to rot before our eyes.
You’re Next! Directed by Adam Wingard. At cinemas around New England.
By Gerald Peary
The Alabama-based Adam Wingard has been making full-on slasher features since the age of 19, including Home Sick, Pop Skull, and A Horrible Way to Die. At age 30, Wingard can slice throats and bash in heads and orchestrate a lethal home invasion with consummate veteran ease. Check out You’re Next!, Wingard’s clever, assured blood shower now at your local bijou.
This time, he’s aided a heap by a brainy, knowing, “in” ensemble. He’s hired on Barbara Crampton, dazzling star of the legendary, 1985 horror film Re-Animator. Many of the actors are his pals and peers who, like him, are talented indie film directors. Look out for Amy Seimetz (The Sun Don’t Shine), Ti West (The Innkeepers), Joe Swanberg (Drinking Buddies), and Larry Fessenden (The Last Winter).
But first the worst: a pre-title throwaway of the accomplished independent actress, Kate Lyn Sheil (The Sun Don’t Shine, Silver Bullets), a cameo in which she’s directed to show off her naked boobs and become a cadaver seconds later. I hope Sheil was properly enumerated! Her showering boyfriend (no, we don’t see his cock) follows as murder victim two. Who are these mangled young people? We never find out. This red-herring prelude, disconnected from the upcoming story, does serve one purpose. It affords an opportunity for the killers to action-paint a blood message on a pane of glass, “You’re Next!”
Well, not really you or I, but the ill-fated Davison family. They are gathered in the country home of the elder Davisons, the parents, for a 35th wedding anniversary. But dad Paul (Rob Moran) is a lightweight who looks like a ninny soap-opera actor and has made his fortune in the defense industry. His matronly spouse, Audrey (Crampton), is an out-and-out hysteric. And the adult kids are off-putting also, including Crispian (AJ Bowen), a spineless, young academic, Aimee (Seimetz), a ditsy nobody, Drake (Swanberg), a snarky philistine, and Felix (Nicholas Tucci), boiling over with greed and anger.
Luis Buñuel would be proud of the scabrous scene in which the Davison clan sits down to supper and the civilized bourgeois meal turns to rot before our eyes. The instigator of trouble is brother Drake (filmmaker Swanberg in a winningly crass, snotty performance). He puts down Aimee’s documentary filmmaker boyfriend (West) by insisting that TV commercials are the greatest art going; and then Drake turns to badger insecure brother Crispian about Crispian’s chubbiness as well as his suspect love relationship with a woman who had been his teaching assistant. Soon, everyone is screaming and accusing, the Davisons have gone beastly, and somehow it makes perfect sense when windows are crashed open and arrows from outside start flying in, sticking in the dinner guests. At least one of these guests gets an arrow in the head, and that kills him.
Chaos! How amusing to watch the Davisons scurrying across the dining room with chair bottoms held before their heads to avoid the crossbows! But it’s all pretty futile, as a trio of murderous home invaders wearing, respectively, a lamb mask, a tiger mask, and a fox mask, kindly have their way. The poor Davisons? Because they are all loathsome, their sundry on-screen deaths are less mourned than applauded, especially if the killings, by axe or machete, are smartly choreographed. These usually are with Wingard directing the carnage.
OK, not every character is a crummy person. The designated heroine of You’re Next! is Erin (Sharni Vinson), Crispian’s ex-TA-turned-girlfriend. During the fatal night, she learns that the whole Davison crew is cowardly, gutless, and useless in a crisis, starting with her shaky boyfriend. It’s Erin who organizes the others to fight the barbarous outsiders, and she herself does private combat with several of the costumed enemy, crushing their skulls. As her boyfriend marvels, “Who would know you are really good at killing people?”
Wingard is cognizant of his slasher genre and its expectations, going back to Halloween and Friday the 13th. There’s always The Final Girl, she the smartest and also the least sexually permissive, who will win out and live another day, perhaps into the sequel. Well, he provides quite a spin on what is supposed to occur, a final scene set among piled-up dead bodies for a red-harvest Jacobean play. What happens to Erin, the Final Girl, is finally . . . .