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(2013) (Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci) (R)

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Horror/Suspense: A family get-together at a remote vacation home turns into a nightmare when masked men suddenly attack them.
Crispian Davison (AJ BOWEN) and his new girlfriend, Erin (SHARNI VINSON), have arrived at the remote vacation home of his parents, Paul (ROB MORAN) and Aubrey (BARBARA CRAMPTON), to celebrate their 35th anniversary. They're soon followed by Crispian's brothers, Drake (JOE SWANBERG) -- who's married to Kelly (SARAH MYERS) -- and Felix (NICHOLAS TUCCI) -- who's arrived with his girlfriend Zee (WENDY GLENN) -- and their sister, Aimee (AMY SEIMETZ) and her boyfriend Tariq (TI WEST).

It's been a long time since the entire family has been together and it doesn't take long for Crispian and Drake to squabble during dinner. It's during that, however, that Tariq notices something outside, goes to look out the window, and is hit in the head with a crossbow arrow.

Everyone else takes cover, but Drake ends up shot in the shoulder with the same. The rest of the family, unaware that the couple in the house down the road was previously slain, then realize there's not just one killer after them, but multiple ones, including one who's already inside the house.

From that point on, they do what they can to survive, all while Erin somewhat takes charge due to her upbringing that's prepared her for something similar to this.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
In the old days of horror films, the slasher subgenre usually involved teens up to no good of some sort, be that drinking, fooling around or what have you. And then along would come some crazed killer with a weapon du jour to slice and dice them in the likes of "Halloween," "Friday the 13th" and the "Nightmare on Elm Street" films. And more often than not, an unlikely heroine emerged from the group to either kill the killer or at least manage to escape the carnage so that one or both could appear in the sequel.

Such films ran rampant through the 1980s and '90s. Since then, however, they've sort of, kind of been replaced by the "torture porn" flicks ("Saw," "Hostel," etc.) and, more recently, a spate of home invasion films. Whether that be this year's "The Purge," or the earlier "Straw Dogs," "The Strangers," "Funny Games" or the most popular if older one, "Panic Room" (with Jodie Foster and a young Kristen Stewart) they feature a variation of the old "Three Little Pigs" tale where the old wolf threatens, "Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in" while trying to get to the title characters to eat them.

As far as I can recall, cannibalism has never been part of the home invasion subgenre (although that would certainly add another level of nightmarishness to such tales), and that also holds true in the latest such entry, "You're Next." Directed by Adam Wingard from a script by Simon Barrett, this offering, though, is something of a hybrid, mixing traditional elements of the aforementioned subgenre with a black comedy streak that initially seems out of place. But it then continues building to the point that our preview screening audience was howling in laughter as often and sometimes even more than shrieking in horror.

That change in tone first truly occurs when various members of a family, as well as their significant others, seem to have forgotten a number of recent crossbow arrows shot through the windows of a remote mansion, killing one person and wounding another. While they initially react in horror to the surprising event and then do pass by the target window holding dining room chairs as shields, the all-too-apparent danger has seemingly evaporated from their minds just moments later when they walk past and even peer out various windows into the darkness, trying to see their attackers.

What will seem like stupendously stupid behavior to some viewers will come off as tongue-in-cheek humor to others who are used to stereotypical characters doing such stereotypically stupid stuff in films like these (the usual ones are going into dark rooms without turning the lights on and splitting up to look around). That self-observant humor then continues when the surprise heroine (Sharni Vinson) whacks the H-E-Double Hockey sticks out of one of the invaders, not with said sports equipment, but one of those heavy meat tenderizer mallets that already looks like a medieval weapon before being put into use.

Following that, it's just a question of who will meet what sort of demise in what order, as well as figuring out the identities and motives of the marauding invaders. Although there's obviously little way to predict the former in any sort of accurate fashion, I figured out the first half of the latter fairly easily, while the second half of that equation doesn't hold up to realistic scrutiny, although maybe that's part of Barrett's continued attempts at humor (something I figure was the only reason for some fairly stilted and obvious dialogue at various points in the film).

One can only hope that also applies to some of the acting that, well, to be brutally honest, ranges from mediocre to quite bad. Vinson is decent as the plucky survivor, but some of her co-stars give performances that were apparently "inspired by" the aforementioned tenderizer being applied to their heads before the old call of "Action!" by the director as the cameras started to roll. I'm guessing it's just another variation of the self-aware humor, but then again, maybe it's just poor thespianism.

That said, if your idea of a rollicking good time is watching fairly graphic injuries and deaths delivered by both the invaders and their unexpected thorn in the old sides, this might just be your bloody cup of tea. Thankfully, such carnage tips in the favor of going over the top and thus obviously lessens any sort of feeling of realism, even if such matters (via special effects, make-up and such) have come a long way from the early days of slasher films in terms of looking real. Even so, your "entertainment" mileage will vary, with some viewers being completely grossed out while others will wince yet realize the black comedy approach and the rest will eat up such visceral absurdity.

In the end, there's really nothing new in "You're Next" that we haven't seen before, although the change in tone from serious to comedy-tinged at least makes all of the blood, gore and standard killings go down a bit easier than if everything had been played straight or along the lines of torture porn offerings. Even so, and while it succeeds at what it's trying to do and be, it didn't do much for me and thus rates as just a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed August 12, 2013 / Posted August 23, 2013

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