You're Next (2011)

Did you remember to lock your door?
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You're Next - Did you remember to lock your door?

As humanity's need to make sense of the world by categorising everything to the utmost degree grows stronger the mumblegore genre has been given life. Mumblecore describes a low budget brand of independent film with an emphasis on natural dialogue, throw in some horror and some cunning rhyming skills and the further refinement of mumblegore becomes a thing. Any research into mumblegore will throw up the names Ti West, Joe Swanberg and Adam Wingard, all of whom had a significant role in You're Next.

The premise for this film is a home invasion with a twist or two. Rather than trying to reinvent a staid horror story, Adam Wingard resists introducing new and more extreme plot devices to stand out from the crowd and instead uses directorial style to deliver a restorative experience. There is nothing new within the story that hasn't been used in numerous other films spanning a number of genres, what is new is how these elements have been put together and how they play nicely with each other on the screen. Despite the plot concepts being recycled material the story is still tight and progresses very carefully with many subtle techniques used to move the circumstances along, easy to miss individually but accumulating to make the overall effect something above average.

The scene is set with the neighbours of the soon to be targeted family meeting their demise at the hands of a masked villain who leaves nothing but corpses, "You're Next" scrawled on the wall in blood and The Dwight Twilley Band on repeat on the stereo. A novel idea would have been to have the killer scrawl "Your Next" and only murder those pedants excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy that felt the need to point out the grammatical error. Unfortunately this isn’t the case (possibly for fear of being accused of personal adequacy issues themselves due to the need to point out the people that point it out). After the opening credits and some character development revealing some potentially relevant familial relationships the reunion in the remote mansion soon becomes the next target of the animal masked invader.

Suspicions are raised very subtly. It becomes apparent that there are three masked intruders (credited as lamb mask, tiger mask and fox mask) but it is far from obvious that there is even a motive to the happenings. Initially the main indication that there could be a reason for the carnage is that rich people sitting around dying one by one while bickering over family issues seems very much like a situation Miss Marple would end up walking into. After the first death the focus on the soon-to-be main character becomes much more apparent, this is the first shift (combined with the fact that there is a crossbow arrow sticking out of the head of Ti West) that astutely accelerates the story. The next pivotal moment is when the audience learns for sure that there is more involved than three masked men terrorising a family for kicks. Even after this there still manages to be further twists that surprise despite the suspicions already existing.

As the film progresses a more conforming horror layer is introduced to run alongside the murder/mystery aspect. Once the survival aspect is established and it seems like there could be a final girl scenario a different tone emerges. Even the soundtrack changes at this point from fairly ambient music to seventies slasher synths. The new girlfriend in the family situation, Erin (played by Sharni Vinson) becomes McGuyver and the excitement levels increase. By this time the audience knows most of what is going on but Erin is oblivious and this puts the viewer in a superior position which in turn creates a more indepth level of involvement.

The horror aspect of You're Next creeps up and although many of the typical aspects of a slasher are there it is not until skulls are being smashed with a blender and brains are being pierced with a kitchen knife that the realisation that this film transitioned from a detectiveless detective story quite a while back becomes evident. The choice of mask for the criminals adds a chilling sentiment and reinforces the suggestion of a slasher without being too blatant. As mentioned before, it is the way the film is directed that removes the notion that you are watching "just another horror" and this enables already tried and tested mechanisms to provide an original and augmented experience.
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