“You’re Next” falls flat as horror film

Andrew Marvin

Contributing Writer

“You’re Next” has been billed as a horror-comedy. I watched it with an open mind, and at no point did I feel that it fell under this category. It is a simple movie with a simple premise: men break into an isolated house and slowly kill off each of its occupants. Much of the movie ventures into rip-off territory. The dramatic beats are telegraphed well in advance, and most of the characters are stereotypes. Within the first five minutes you will know who is good, who is bad, and who will be killed. At first glance, it is entirely unremarkable, but there is a saving grace.

The only thing that distinguishes this movie from all of those other thrillers is the heroine, Erin (Sharni Vinson). As the attackers pick off the occupants, Erin picks off the attackers. When she kills, she does so swiftly and without remorse. Though she seems less human for these acts, it is refreshing to see a protagonist who doesn’t spend the entire movie whimpering in a corner as the killer skulks around. Adam Wingard directs these scenes well, lending every brutality a sense of balletic motion. Vinson will probably find herself catapulted to stardom by this quiet little horror movie. Without an actress as physically involved and naturally charismatic as Vinson, Erin’s character would have failed, and if she had failed, the entire movie would have failed. Unfortunately, one character, no matter how strong, cannot support an entire movie.

In horror, the unknown is often times scarier than the obvious. Without the possibility of surprise there is no tension, and without tension there is no horror. Usually when a supposed thriller takes careful steps to explain the characters and their motives, it ceases to become a horror movie. Home invasion movies are especially devoted to this premise. The characters do not need a reason to do the things they do so long as the end result frightens the audience. Those marked “expendable” will march into dark rooms alone when the plot dictates it, because that is the kind of thing that needs to happen in this type of movie. In contrast, “You’re Next” tries to explain everything, giving every character a back story and motive even when it’s not necessary, making the characters’ urges to throw themselves upon the invaders’ arsenal even more ridiculous.

Surprising the audience is what makes good horror effective, but there’s nothing shocking about this movie aside from how strangely satisfying it is. It fails as a horror-comedy, yet it succeeds as something else, though I am having trouble defining exactly what that is. Perhaps it would fit best under the category of a thriller, but that is a genre so broad that most movies can claim to be one in their own right.

I think that “You’re Next” is an action movie above all else–a small-scale “Die Hard.” Erin, the female equivalent of John McClane, uses her wits to fight through a bunch of intruders with ulterior motives in an attempt to save her loved ones. Like “Die Hard,” I suppose that the point of this movie was to start a fun, exciting franchise with a likable hero. While “You’re Next” stands on its own, I can’t help but feel like the idea of making a movie based solely around the idea of churning out more like it, no matter the quality, is a little cynical. Hopefully when the inevitable sequel is released, this burgeoning franchise will find an identity of its own. How much you enjoy it will depend on what you are looking for. This is not great horror, but it is good action. The question still stands: is good action enough?

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