TIFF’s Midnight Madness is off to a fantastic start this year and really hit its stride with “You’re Next”, one of the best slasher films I have seen in years. It is amazing when you go to a movie and see a film where the filmmakers truly hit one out of the park. The beginnings of “You’re Next” go back to last year’s TIFF, when Director Adam Wingard and Writer Simon Barrett were in Toronto screening their last flick “A Horrible Way to Die”, as part of TIFF’s Vanguard series. When they attended a Midnight Madness screening of “Insidious” and heard how crazy the fans were and saw how the fans reacted to the scary stuff they decided to quickly go to work on a film for Midnight Madness.
Fast forward to this year’s Midnight Madness and “You’re Next” had the Midnight Madness crowd screaming, laughing and jumping out of their skin!The movie starts as a fairly straight forward home invasion movie. Like “Ils” or “The Strangers”, the sanctity of the family home is violated by intruders seeking to terrorize the members of the household in the place where they feel the safest. Like any good home invasion story, the film works on a primal level as anyone who has been home alone late at night and hears a noise somewhere in their house are often overcome with a sense of dread at the idea that someone is inside waiting for them in the shadows.A group of adult children and their significant others arrive at their parents’ massive country estate located in the middle of nowhere to celebrate their anniversary.
The very beautiful and extremely talented Sharni Vinson plays Erin, a young woman dating one of the sons and is meeting his family for the first time. The wealthy family do not get together very often and they are not what you would describe as a happy family. The mother is suffering from some apparent anxiety disorder, the father is disappointed in the direction some of his children have taken in their lives and there is a huge smattering of sibling rivalry which spills over at the anniversary dinner.
The exchange between the brothers is very funny and Wingard and Barrett are able to milk the family turmoil for laughs rather than trying to create some pointless melodrama in the midst of a slasher flick.The bickering is quickly broken up by a relentless crossbow attack from outside and from that point forward it is like cresting the first hill on a roller coaster and the movie does not let up until it has had its way with you. As family members meet brutal demises via increasingly imaginative means at the hands of psychos wearing animal masks the filmmakers are able to build incredible suspense and genuine terror.
There were some well-executed chair-jumpers throughout the film and I watched Midnight Madness fans literally jump out of their seats on at least three or four occasions – not an easy task for an audience so well versed in horror. The set-up for each kill is not the paint by numbers approach you expect in the genre, and there are some very unsettling and creepy moments.
The part of the film that blew me away the most is the character of Erin, and Vinson’s incredible portrayal. Most films of this genre feature a “final girl” or “survivor girl” who stereotypically embodies characteristics from Jamie Lee Curtis’ character in “Halloween”. Erin however, is something different. She spent the first fifteen years of her life living with her father in the Australian outback at a survivalist camp. Daddy’s paranoia pays off in spades when she finds herself trapped in the middle of the family reunion from hell. This is not a woman who stabs the killer in the arm and then drops the knife next to him while turning her back.
When Erin grabs hold of the psychos in this film she punishes them and viciously defends herself so that there can be no question about whether or not the killers are dead when she’s done with them. You mess with Erin and there will be no sequel for you! Growing up in the 80s with a VCR and a video store a bike ride away I watched every slasher film imaginable and I can honestly say that “You’re Next” has the most bad-ass butt-kicking heroine in slasher film history. And she is not afraid to get messy – knives, axes, and even blenders see plenty of grue as Erin goes into survival mode and tries to slash her way to safety against the masked killers.I love slasher films, but I am also willing to admit that there are a lot of shortcomings for many of the films in the genre. Great slasher films, however, stand out, and “You’re Next” is a severed head above the rest with great filmmaking, great acting and one of the most memorable female protagonists ever to fight back against mask-wearing maniacs.
The film doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the movie is expertly executed by all involved.Absolutely essential viewing for any horror fan! 9/10 stars