I’m not at all sure what kind of movie You’re Next is. Which is fine, it can often take a while to definitively label a film. But the problem with this new horror/comedy/torture porn/romp/satire/whatever is that I’m not sure it knows what kind of movie it is either. And therein lies the problem.
You’re Next opens with a pretty groovy and rather freaky double murder that has (unfairly and lazily) drawn comparisons to Drew Barrymore’s introduction in Scream. (In fact, scanning some early reviews, it seems like many people are jumping at the opportunity to label You’re Next as the next Scream. That’s reaching. Way too far. Scream, my friends, this is not.) Anyway, from there, we meet a married couple spending their wedding anniversary in their massive vacation home secluded deep in the woods. Joined for their celebration are their children and their children’s lovers. A few days of festive merriment, with those they love.
There are two brief sequences that follow this kill that tell you everything you need to know about You’re Next. One: no one at the dinner table notices that Aimee’s boyfriend has been shot in the head with an arrow. And he was shot Right. Next. To. The. Table. Really, it takes about a whole minute for someone to glance up and notice that a dude is fucking dead in the middle of the dining room. So there’s that.
Two: Once the family realizes they are under attack, they all pull out their cell phones, and notice that no one has any reception. The dad says something like, “But this doesn’t make any sense! I used my cell phone YESTERDAY!” A son quickly answers, to the effect of, “Well, dad, they must have a cell phone jammer. They’re illegal, but you can buy them online for like $30!”
So basically, the makers of this film think their audience is so dumb that they need something like a cell phone jammer literally spelled out for them. It doesn’t help that, later in the movie, we actually see one of the attackers turn the cell phone jammer off, thereby making that father/son exchange completely unnecessary.
And I can see my naysayers now: Come on, man, you’re judging the film too harshly. It’s meant to be fun.
And you know what, I think that’s a strong argument. I think director Adam Wingard, his writer Simon Barrett, and his entire cast wanted You’re Next to be in on its own joke. The problem is, its joke doesn’t last for the duration. The sold out audience I saw the movie with laughed with the film a number of times. But on just as many occasions, we laughed at it. Some jokes were obvious, and deserved a chuckle, while other bits were simply idiotic. Some of the violence was gruesome and inventive. Others were corny and meant to provoke amusement.
You’re Next would play perfect as a Midnight Movie Feature – the kind of setting that demands expectations be lowered. But as it sits now, this is a horror film that is tonally all over the map. As with most every film released under the mumblecore movement, I respect Wingard’s intentions, and appreciate that he was able to get this movie made on little money, using many of his own friends. But respect only gets you so far. And you have to know what kind of movie you want to be in order to get anywhere. C-