You’re Next review: the lack of suspense is killing me

You're Next red light Sharni Vinson

Oh, it’s horrific, all right: wooden performances and stilted exposition, punctuated by bouts of random bloody sadism.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Alas for You’re Next, I saw it mere days after The Purge surprised me by turning the tropes of the home-invasion horror flick upside down in much the same way that The Cabin in the Woods did for cabin-in-the-woods horror flicks. The genre is now spoiled for me, unless someone does something very clever with it. Director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett do not do anything clever with it, and it’s hard to imagine how I would have warmed up to their obscene gorefest even if I’d seen it pre-Purge, back in 2011, when it debuted at the Toronto Film Festival. It’s that rote, and worse, it is awkward in its mundanity, wooden performances by a mostly embarrassingly amateurish cast punctuated by bouts of random bloody sadism. Animal-masked murderers descend, seemingly without motive, upon the reunion of the Davison clan at their rambling mansion in the middle of nowhere, at which point the various parents, adult children, and significant others histrionically overreact or implausibly underreact, and almost to a one behave in ways that are so ridiculous or unsympathetic that one is tempted to say, Fuck ’em, let ’em die. Except it turns out not to be fun to watch even these people suffer horribly. Yet I never cared, either, why this was being perpetrated upon them. When we do find out why, it’s so nonsensically preposterous that it can only have been an attempt at humor. (Spoiler: It’s not funny.) The stilted exposition — “They must be using a cell phone jammer. They’re illegal but you can buy them on the Internet for like 30 bucks” — is frequently fairly horrific, but that’s about the only truly terrifying aspect of the film. I think we’re meant to cheer and be surprised that the girlfriend (Sharni Vinson: Step Up 3D) of one of the Davison boys is cool and competent in the midst of this crisis. Woe is us if that is considered a “twist.”

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