Rob Moran and Barbara Crampton are a long-married affluent couple who gather their family together for a dinner celebration in honour of their 35th wedding anniversary at their vacation home. Soon into the night, however, the house and its inhabitants find themselves under fire from unseen crossbow-wielding attackers. As the high-numbered, but frankly useless family members are bumped off one-by-one, Sharni Vinson, the Aussie-born student-turned-lover of A.J. Bowen, shows an unexpected resilience and aptitude for survivalist ingenuity as she starts to turn the tables.
Getting quite good word-of-mouth in some circles, this mixture of “Funny Games” home invasion flick and slasher movie is one of those pretty good horror movies that, with a little more care could’ve been even better than it is. Directed/Edited by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett (who gave us the awful “Q is for Quack” segment from the pointless horror anthology “The ABCs of Death”), the film comes off better if you look at it solely within the horror genre. Although I’m a fan of horror, let’s face it, the number of truly top films in this genre is a lot smaller than in many other genres one could name. So when a pretty good one comes along, you’ll excuse me if I rate it a little higher than perhaps I should.
This one might remind you a bit of the minimalist “The Strangers”, but it’s a billion times better than that one. For starters, stuff actually happens in this film. For what is mostly a home invasion horror/thriller, the opener is classic late 70s/early 80’s slasher. Youngsters having sex + boobies + creepy killer POV shots= Classic stuff, albeit with mostly off-screen violence, which is a bit bizarre. Unfortunately, this scene represents the biggest problem with the film: It’s at best tangentially related to the main action in the film. In fact the entire ‘You’re Next’ motif, unless I dozed off at some point, is never, ever explained nor really tied into the main action of the film. And since that’s the title of the film, it’s a major issue for me. It doesn’t kill the film, it simply kills the film’s chances of being even better than it is. And I blame Barrett for that, he has shown before that he’s not much of a writer (“Dead Birds”, “Frankenfish”, “Red Sands”).
It’s a tad slow-moving and it looks like a cheap, shaky Dogme film, but there’s a nice sense of dread early on, aided by the creepy ambient soundtrack. The music score in particular is excellent, reminding me of a throbbing score from a Dario Argento film. For a film that starts with off-screen violence, this gets good and bloody after a while, which I rather liked. By modern standards, it’s really freaking violent at times, and thankfully not in a ‘torture porn’ way or an unpleasant “Last House on the Left” kinda way. This is good old-fashioned bloody fun, and one of the best films with a home invasion motif that I’ve seen.
I’ve never liked actress Sharni Vinson, formerly on the long-running Aussie soap “Home and Away”, though at least it appears she has had a hamburger or two since leaving Summer Bay, which is good. Here she’s a bit bland out of the starting gates, but you can’t deny that she plays one of the strongest, most resilient, and slightly blood-thirsty horror heroines in years. If you like seeing strong women kick butt when backed into a corner, you’ll appreciate the character here. My favourite character and performance by far was the smug, perfectly punchable Joe Swanberg’s Drake. He’s a complete douche of the highest order.
Good fun, but with some issues that prevent this one from being a classic. I actually think it could’ve gotten there, with a better script. Oh well, pretty good is nothing to sneeze at, and any film that makes me not hate Sharni Vinson so much can’t be all bad.