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Broken Home Invasion

You're Next (2013)

Corey Ransberg/Lionsgate

You would be forgiven for thinking that Adam Wingard’s low-budget slasher horror was another straight out of the mold, paint-by-number copycat, but you would be so very wrong.

In all honesty, the first 10 minutes do nothing to allay the fear that you’re going to have to sit through another cheap and tactless John Carpenter rip-off. You’ve seen all this before: a masked killer, a half-naked teenager, a brutal murder. However, it soon becomes apparent that you’re dealing with a different kind of beast once the dysfunctional family, about to be accosted by said masked killers, assembles in the nearby house (or rather, mansion) for a long-overdue reunion. Then the bickering begins — particularly the long-standing browbeating that son Crispian (played in wonderfully understated fashion by A. J. Bowen) receives from his smug brother Drake (Joe Swanberg, landing some of the most delicious lines). Drake is the character you love to hate, and is a clue to where this very black comedy is heading.

As the extended family of emotionally troubled mother, distant siblings and their significant others gather for the evening meal and the killers close in on the house, the film unleashes its true intent.

Simon Barrett’s sharp and at times wicked script kicks into top gear; and as the bodies start piling up, the bickering doesn’t stop. It always seems as if the one thing that could save this family would be to stand together, but its members can’t quite get there. Not even the most cynical viewer has any idea how deep these divisions truly run, but observing the familial implosion is hilarious.

Into this mix steps the feisty Erin, played by Australian actress Sharni Vinson. She is Crispian’s latest squeeze, and appears at first (in the classic Ripley fashion) as a minor character destined to die an early death. Erin, however, harbors a secret of her own and soon proves more than a match for the would-be psychos.

“You’re Next” does at times feel a little cheap; but what it lacks in shine, it makes up for with set pieces that will make you want to laugh and cover your eyes at the same time. This is no “Scream” franchise. It lacks the gloss, star power and blatant red herrings of Wes Craven’s meta-horror masterpiece, but it shares some of the DNA as it winks over its shoulder at you. The violence is at times bloody, but so tongue-in-cheek and matter-of-fact that it always raises a smile and, more often than not, ripples of nervous laughter. One of the highlights being a plan to make a run for the cars outside, beautifully pitched, tense and guaranteed to catch you off guard.

There are nods to the masters. The plain white masks, more disturbing because they are so expressionless, hark back to “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th.” There is a light shade of “Assault on Precinct 13” with the crossbow-wielding killer in the garden, and in one scene a killer tilts his head to survey his latest kill, reminiscent of Michael Myers. But “You’re Next” never forgets that it’s rewriting the rules and throws the book out with gruesome abandon in the second act.

If you like your horror dark and dryly funny, this is the perfect antidote to the dirge of torture-porn monstrosities that pass themselves off as entertainment these days. Even if you can see the ending coming from a mile away, the ingenious payoff this film offers is to nod in your direction and say “yes, but who’s going to walk into that one?”


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