If you have to wait a really long time to see it....it's probably going to be pretty good. Though certainly not a statement that rings true all the time, past history has taught us that horror movies that sit on the shelf for a long time turn out to be pretty awesome, and totally worth the wait. I say this because movies like Trick 'r Treat, Cabin in the Woods and a whole host of others sat on shelves for years*, and ended up becoming some of the best and most beloved horror films of all time. I think what it all boils down to is that it's a lot harder to market an original horror movie to mainstream audiences than it is a totally generic and safe one. That's the unfortunate truth.
*I will be talking more about horror flicks that had extended stays on the shelf over on FEARnet this weekend, so keep your eyes peeled over there!*
Why do I bring this up right now? Because You're Next began its festival run all the way back on September 10th, 2011, just about two full years before finding its way into the theater this weekend. Despite massive amounts of positive acclaim and enough hype to ensure that the film could never possibly live up to the high expectations we'll all go into it with, there the film sat on the proverbial shelf, unseen by the majority of horror fans until today.
But despite how long it took, it's actually a big time success for the genre that You're Next has embarked on this widespread theatrical outing at all, considering the previous films of creators Adam Wingard (the director) and Simon Barrett (the writer) have gone straight to DVD and On Demand outlets. With films like A Horrible Way To Die and V/H/S under their belts, Wingard and Barrett have sort of become indie darlings in recent years, two guys that horror fans have been eager to see break on through to the other side, and start getting some widespread love and attention (if only so we can then start hating them for being successful...that's how it works with us horror fans, right?).
That's precisely what is finally happening with that little home invasion flick they made a couple years ago, and I've gotta say, it's been a total delight to see so much mainstream exposure given to You're Next. I haven't watched a single TV show in the past several weeks without seeing an awesome commercial for the film, and it seems like those creepy masked marauders are absolutely everywhere, to the point that I'll be pretty surprised if the film doesn't do extremely well at the box office.
Whether you end up liking it or not, it's quite frankly a win for all horror fans and filmmakers when a little indie movie like this gets so much attention and exposure, and I for one have been loving it. An original R-rated horror film that's gone big time; we should all be happy and proud for Wingard, Barrett and everyone involved. The horror genre feels like it's alive and well right now, and for the first time in a while I can once again feel its bloody heart beating in my hands. Figuratively, of course.
Needless to say, You're Next has had my complete support from the very beginning, the kind of sight unseen support I only wish I could give to every horror movie that comes along. Thanks to all the hype, the incredible trailers and TV spots and the kickass marketing, I feel like I became a fan of You're Next long before I ever took my seat in the theater last night, and could often be found earlier this week taunting my wife with the replica lamb and tiger masks we scored at this past weekend's Monster Mania.
As someone who tries to be taken somewhat seriously as a movie reviewer (somewhat...), I try not to go into movies with this sort of pre-judgement, either good or bad, but in the case of a movie like this it was simply impossible, due to the insistence from pretty much every horror fan on the internet that it's one of the best in years...an opinion that's been beaten into my head for over 2 years now.
Now that this review is 6,463 words long and I still haven't written a single thing about how I felt about the movie, I think it's time I quit the bullshit and just cut to the chase. If you disagree, scroll back up to the top. If you agree, proceed to the next paragraph. It's like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books, this review. Isn't that fun?
You scrolled down, so I'll cut to the chase. You're Next was and is fucking awesome. And completely worth the wait. And it totally lived up to the hype. And I loved it. And I love AJ Bowen too. Hi, AJ. You are awesome.
I cannot overstate how much fun I had at the theater last night watching this movie; as much fun watching the actual movie as I had listening to the reactions of the audience, half of whom seemed to 'get it' and the other half of whom quite clearly did not. It's kind of hard to explain exactly what I mean here without digging too deep into the movie and spoiling things, but the experience of watching You're Next actually reminded me on many levels of the experience of seeing the aforementioned Cabin in the Woods in the theater. Two totally different movies, make no mistake, but there's very much that same sense of self awareness beating at the heart of You're Next, which makes it a total blast for horror fans who are "in on the joke," so to speak, but probably not for audiences who go in expecting a straight up home invasion film.
Though incredibly effective, all of the TV spots and trailers for the film promoted You're Next as indeed being a straight up and super scary home invasion film, a smart move by the marketing department that wasn't all that honest. Quite unexpectedly, the film is laced with a laugh out loud, pitch black sense of humor, which begins in the "getting to know the characters" portion of the film and oddly enough continues throughout, not stopping no matter how intense the proceedings get. It's very tricky to manage that balance between intense and funny, but Wingard and Barrett impressively pull it off quite well, and have turned what didn't have to be anything more than a generic home invasion flick into one of the most truly entertaining horror films in years. And by far their most impressive work to date.
I have no doubts that the fairly goofy sensibility the film has at times will be a turn off to many, that goofiness mistaken for stupidity and perhaps even bad filmmaking, but for me it was the fact that the film was laced with so much humor and didn't take itself seriously that made it such an enjoyable watch. When it wants to be, You're Next is totally creepy and scary, but at the end of the day the name of the game with this one is entertainment, and again I say you likely won't find a more entertaining horror movie released this year. You really get the sense that everyone involved decided to just go for it, have fun and let the chips fall where they may, which allowed them to break free from the norm and infuse as many laughs and surprising twist & turns into the generic home invasion formula as possible. And it just plain works, on every level.
Even before the masked maniacs enter the proceedings and things really pick up (which doesn't take long at all), You're Next is quite entertaining thanks to the cast, which includes many faces that will be familiar to anyone who's seen the past works of Wingard/Barrett, including AJ Bowen and Joe Swanberg. They all pull off the balance between humor and horror as well as the writing/directing team do, and that getting to know you portion of the film is one of the more enjoyable ones I've seen in recent years. While a lot of horror films tend to bore until people start dying, I was having a blast just hanging out with the incredibly fucked up Davison family and their significant others. A whole lot is learned about the family dynamic without all that much being said, a simple glance from one character to another revealing deep familial rifts and setting the stage for what's to come. A lot of the fun of the film lies in playing on that dysfunctional family dynamic, and so it works a whole lot in the film's favor that it's so much fun to get to know the characters.
Have to give particular praise to Sharni Vinson, who plays the girlfriend of AJ Bowen's character. I would be spoiling things if I said any more than that, so let's leave it at that!
Also must mention that Barbara Crampton plays the matriarch of the Davison family, her first acting role in several years. Crampton of course played Megan Halsey in Re-Animator, the poor girl who was sexually violated by Dr. Hill's decapitated head. Really good to see her back on the screen!
It wouldn't be a Freddy In Space horror movie review without talking gore, and You're Next is as impressive on the gore front as it is on any other. There are several moments of extreme brutality throughout, and I quite frankly did not notice a single instance of CGI. I'm sure there was some peppered in there, but I'd say pretty damn close to 100% of the gore in the film is completely practical, and as you know by now, that makes me a very happy horror fan. The gore is totally realistic and cringe inducing, with every single character that bites the bullet (and a whole lot of them do!) being forced to endure mass amounts of pain before being granted access to the afterlife. No punches are pulled in this one, and You're Next is sure to satisfy all of my fellow gorehounds out there.
The bottom line is that You're Next is every bit as enjoyable as the past two years of hype probably led you to believe it would be, a pure blood soaked delight that directly caters to hardcore horror fans like you and I. One minute you're cringing as you watch an axe get slammed into someone's cranium and the next you're laughing out loud at a ridiculous and gloriously out of place line or character interaction, a never a dull moment experience that delivers pretty much everything you've ever wanted from a horror movie. I loved it, and I can't say enough good things about it. But I think I've said enough already, so I'll leave it at that.
Get out there and support original R-rated horror this weekend. Not just for the principles of it, but because this original R-rated horror film is one of the greatest gifts us fans have been given in the last few years. So go buy yourself a bucket of stale, butter-soaked popcorn and enjoy it.