In “You’re Next,” Barbara Crampton plays quite possibly the smartest person in the history of slasher flicks. Not more than 10 minutes into the picture, her character hears a strange noise coming from upstairs. Her initial reaction is to immediately get out of the house and drive away. That’s it. Movie’s over. Goodnight, everybody!
OK, OK, the movie doesn’t play out exactly like that. Her husband, played Rob Moran, of course convinces Crampton that there’s nothing wrong with the house and they stay. What ensues is a bloody massacre involving arrows to the head, axes to the head, knives to the head, and blenders to the head. If only more characters used their heads in this film, maybe they’d get to keep them.
In addition to Crampton’s character, there is one other intelligent person in “You’re Next.” Her name is Erin, a resourceful Austrian woman played by Sharni Vinson. She’s dating AJ Bowen’s Crispian, Crampton and Moran’s son. Crispian takes Erin up to his parent’s secluded vacation house to meet the whole family, which includes his three siblings and their three dates. The family reunion takes a turn for the worst, however, when somebody starts firing arrows through the windows.
To give the film credit, this is one of the few times where the characters are given a justified reason for staying in their home. It soon becomes clear that the whole household is surrounded. Just stepping foot outside the front door means a date with a crossbow. The cars have all been sabotaged and cell service has been blocked.
On top of all that, one of the masked killers is hiding somewhere in the house, armed with a machete. That’s actually a pretty scary setup. Leave it to Erin to take control of the situation as she arms herself with a meat tenderizer and sets booby traps throughout the house. She’s like the grown-up, female Kevin McCallister with lethal weapons.
While Erin might be good in a crisis, the same can’t be said about most of the other characters. They all make the unbelievably dim-witted decisions audiences love to laugh at in horror movies, sometimes literally running into guaranteed danger. Dumb decisions and the occasional obvious scare aside, though, it’s all in good fun.
That’s the best word to describe “You’re Next,” fun. It’s a quality that was severely lacking from the sadistic remakes of “The Hills Have Eyes” and “Funny Games,” both of which cruelly put families in unspeakable peril.
Director Adam Wingard first premiered “You’re Next” at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival. His film won’t revolutionize this genre by any means. For what it is, however, it’s definitely a slick little thriller with some A-list kills, humor that catches you off guard, and great twists on top of more great twists. Along with the “Evil Dead” reboot and “The Conjuring,” it’s another surprisingly good scary movie from 2013. Actually, it shouldn’t come as a major surprise that a year ending in 13 would be a good one for horror flicks.
• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.