Can the last half hour of a film make it good?
For the majority of it’s running time, the “new” film You’re Next is your run of the mill home invasion thriller of which we’ve gotten several lately. The previous one to see release this summer, The Purge, used a twist of being in the future. (The future, Conan?) And everyone gets to rape, murder and pillage for twelve hours a year. Kinda like Wal-Mart on Black Friday.
You’re Next, which set on the shelf for a couple of years before finally seeing release, also has it’s own “twist,” if you want to call it that. And I don’t want to belie its originality for those that want to walk in cold. The studio obviously is trying to keep it from the audience since the trailers did not indicate what it is. So I’ll give those of you who want to see it that way the opportunity to turn away now. Obviously I won’t go deep into spoiler territory. I never do. But it’s a courtesy for the super-anxious. Just know that it is not a great film, but it is above average for the genre. If nothing else, it’s well made.
As I was saying, for the first hour or so, You’re Next is a pretty average horror thriller with lots of deaths, some convincing gore and a not too original premise. There are some narrative twists to be found, but none of them are all too unpredictable. Full disclosure, I am not typically the biggest fan of these kind of films, or the slasher films that they spawn from unless there’s something special about them. If they’re funny, original or somehow just plain well-made enough to separate themselves from the crowd. And You’re Next wasn’t it. Until the last half hour, when it turns into “Home Alone: The Reckoning.” Most of the characters are your typical spoiled, rich fops that filmmakers love to hate. Director Adam Wingard seems to delight in seeing them taken down and they are given every ounce of stupidity that can be wrung from them. But then there’s Erin.
With her Mary Elizabeth Winstead looks and her Crocodile Dundee accent (which is to say real and obvious), Sharni Vinson takes control of the film for it’s last third and that’s when it becomes interesting.
See, her character Erin didn’t grow up in a posh setting. She was raised in a survivalist camp in the Australian outback. And she knows how to rain down carnage just as well as the animal-masked assailants trying to force their way into the home of her boyfriend’s family. About the same time that her Carpenter-esque theme kicks in is when the film starts to make it’s impact. At that point it leaves the old jump scares behind and starts to truly be fun and encourages audience participation as she sets traps for the creeps trying to do her harm.
This is also when most of the film’s humor kicks in. It’s never hugely funny, but it does have a jet-black streak of humor that permeates here and there. It also takes advantage of the family acting like prats, especially indie director Joe Swanberg. Most of the characters are so dislikable that you almost cheer their demise. Not sure if this was on purpose. If they actually made you care about someone besides the protagonist, it might have been a more engaging film.
(Three and a half damns given out of five)