Slashers Get a Subversion with 'You're Next' (2013)/Directed & Edited by Adam Wingard
Now, I love a good slasher movie. Anybody who knows me well knows I don't mind a bit of blood and gore in my cinema. But it's hard for movies of this particular genre to stand out anymore, which is why You're Next (2013) was such a refreshing jolt when I first saw it. The movie originally stemmed from when Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett attended the world premiere of Insidious (2010) at the Midnight Madness section of TIFF, prompting them to make a movie of their own for the festival. That this became the result is the most unexpected and fresh outcome of that resolution, as the movie premiered to much critical acclaim and hype via social media.
The story followed the Davison children- Crispian (AJ Bowen), Drake (Joe Swanberg), Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and Aimee (Amy Seimetz)-as they gathered at their parents' (Rob Moran and Barbara Crampton) isolated new house to celebrate their thirty-fifth anniversary. When everyone sat down for dinner, a trio of masked killers (Simon Barrett, Lane Hughes, L.C. Holt) besieged them, though no one understood why. As the night continued, however, Erin (Sharni Vinson), Crispian's girlfriend, proved more than capable of handling herself, and eventually turned the tables big-time on the three foes.
There were a number of elements that contributed to this being one of the best horror movies I'd seen. Number one, right off the bat, was Sharni Vinson's performance as Erin. From the moment she arrives on the scene, she was likable, gorgeous, impeccably kind. As the carnage began and she took care of business, she became evermore captivating. The creativity and invention with which she outwitted her enemies, without being invincible or invulnerable, made Erin incredibly easy to root for as a heroine, and the best leading lady in a slasher that I'd seen.
Two, the way this movie turned the expectations of the slasher genre on their heads, especially with the character of Erin. Women in slasher films are typically just screaming, hapless victims, but here, this lady was taking action, kicking ass, and taking names. I couldn't have loved that more.
Three, the insanely cool score. Primarily composed by Kyle McKinnon and Jasper Lee, with some additional music by Wingard and Mads Heldtsberg, this sounded like no other score I'd heard in a horror film, or would hear afterward. It was simultaneously unnerving and awesome.
Four, the cinematography by Andrew Droz Palermo. The past decade or so, horror films have become more visually stunning than ever, and this is right near the top for me. Palermo managed to make the house where this story took place seem both very expansive and unifying, and claustrophobically closed-in. A threat could be anywhere, any time. Additionally, the camera movement was consistently handheld and kinetic, taking an active part in the action to make it more immersive and adrenaline-pumping.
Instead of concluding with a typical summary of what I liked about this film, and just giving a recommendation (though I HIGHLY suggest watching it, if you love horror), I wanna end with a personal anecdote. When I first saw this at sixteen, I doubted I could achieve my dreams of filmmaking. This was one of a small group of movies that helped me get through a difficult battle with depression. Several years later, on (thankfully) the other side of that, I contacted Andrew Droz Palermo, Adam Wingard and Sharni Vinson via Instagram to thank them for their efforts, to warm responses. Not only is this one of my favorite horror movies, it holds a special place in my heart for how it helped me believe in myself at a moment where I didn't think I could.