TIFF Review: You're Next

You're Next (2011, directed by Adam Wingard)

Some scenes are universal. A family gets together for their parents' anniversary, and immediately falls into old patterns. The two older brothers squabble over nothing, the baby girl beams at daddy, the youngest brother broods in the corner. Their various significant others watch on with varying degrees of concern and amusement at the whole scene while the folks try to maintain some semblance of peace during their big night. And then of course the inevitable crossbow blot shatters a window and catches somebody in the forehead...

Wait, what?

A home invasion film that both embraces and defies convention, You're Next is a more than worthy follow-up to Wingard's A Horrible Way To Die, another film that took some delight in not going where you might expect it to. Bloody as all hell, the film stacks up bodies like cord wood as the invaders discover that their victims aren't quite as hapless as they planned. It's also got a vicious sense of humor, which spills out in the form of some ridiculous lines of dialogue and the survivors' reliance of home defense techniques stolen directly from Macaulay Culkin's bag of tricks, albeit leaning more towards axes than cans of paint. And while AJ Bowen is his usual effortlessly awesome self, and Stuart Gordon's favorite scream queen Barbara Cramptom is tremendous as the family matriarch, it's Sharni Vinson as Bowen's Aussie girlfriend Erin who totally steals the show.

It's not a perfect film. Joe Swanberg, the weak acting link in Horrible Way To Die, is still a half beat out of synch in this one. And the opening sequence in which some inconvenient neighbors get offed tries to be a Scream-level table-setter but falls flat, mainly due to the fact we never really see the victims showing any fear or terror.

But once that crossbow bolts shatters the night, it's pretty much balls to the way straight to the finish line. If you're tired of pretentious, misanthropic twaddle like Funny Games messing up the good clean fun of the home invasion genre, You're Next is a hell of an antidote.

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