Erin (Sharni Vinson) and her boyfriend Crispian (AJ Bowen) are travelling to his parents’ house for a celebration of their anniversary, despite his obvious reluctance to attend. When we meet the rest of the family, we find out why – they’re obnoxious, selfish people who just can’t get along to save themselves. Despite petty squabbles, they eventually sit down for a meal and things go peacefully for roughly 30 seconds before yet another argument breaks out. This time however, it’s interrupted when one of the guests sees something outside the window, then cops an arrow to the head.
Before long, it’s made clear that the house is under siege by a trio of (creepily) masked nasties, hell-bent on eradicating the occupants of the house. The usual “how do we get out of this?” scenarios begin to play out with creatively gruesome results. I was enjoying that there was some effort put into creating unexpected but practical deaths (for instance, one of the characters decides to make a run for the cars outside only to run full sprint out the door into razor wire that’s been strung across it, because the villains of the piece anticipated such a move; this moment is also blackly hilarious given the buildup) but I was also chalking up the ways it was failing to rise above some of its contemporaries.
But then, we learn that Erin is actually pretty skilled at keeping herself alive, and making sure that the bad guys die. This is what the movie’s actually about in the end – what happens when masked intruders try to pull off a murderous invasion, only to have someone inside who’s dangerously competent at beating them back? Erin turns into something of a warrior woman, working tirelessly to keep the ever-dwindling members of the family she’s only just met alive, while receiving little to no help from their useless selves. Erin is a badass, and Sharni Vinson’s performance is an utter delight to experience. I also like that the film has the unlikeable-horror-characters that I usually hate, but gives some relevance and point to their lack of niceties, and doesn’t make them a chore to watch.
You’re Next starts as another entry in the “home invaded by nasty people” genre, and while you’re convinced it will be another lacklustre exercise in the torture of characters you don’t care about, it suddenly dawns on you that you’re actually hooked and want to keep watching. It’s a very gradual shift in tone and focus, and it took me by surprise, but I’m glad it did. It’s got some creative kills for the gore fans out there, and a fantastic protagonist in Vinson’s Erin as well as some great gallows humour at times. It’s also pretty audacious in its irreverence (the ending is perfect) and ultimately a really enjoyable flick. This is the film for all the horror fans that yell at characters and tell them what they should be doing – Erin is already one step ahead of you.