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SXSW 2013: Capone says the home invasion scare film YOU'RE NEXT is fresh and terrifying!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Austin here for more coverage from the SXSW Film Festival.

About a half hour into the long-delayed but highly anticipated latest work from director Adam Winguard and writer Simon Barrett (the pair worked on the solid 2010 feature A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE, as well as shorts for THE ABCs OF DEATH, V/H/S and V/H/S/2), I was admittedly baffled why so many people who had seen the film at Toronto Film Festival 2011 or Fantastic Fest 2011were singing its praises so vocally. By the time the film is released at the end of this August, it will have been nearly two years since its premiere. But what I had watched for the first 30 minutes appeared to be a standard-issue home invasion scare film, complete with creepy death cult animal masks on the killers, and a bunch of well-crafted scary moments.

But as YOU'RE NEXT progresses, you start to notice what makes it special. These mask-wearing murderers are not on hand to tie up the occupants of this house; they are there to dispatch them as quickly as possible. You realize quickly that there will be no torture of this large family, who grown members have reunited for the parents' (Rob Moran and Barbara Crampton) anniversary. Instead, they will be systematically executed for reasons which we are unaware. But before we even get to that, a gathering must happen.

After an opening murder of a couple having a sexified time at a neighboring house to the family, the children of the couple begin arrives, including son Crispin (AJ Bowen) and girlfriend Erin (the lovely Australian-born Sharni Vinson); Drake (filmmaker Joe Swanberg) and wife Talia (Kate Lyn Sheil); sister Aimee (Amy Seimetz, who also stars in UPSTREAM COLOR) and boyfriend Tariq (horror director Ti West); and youngest brother Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and gothy girlfriend Zee (Wendy Glenn).

There is some playful poking fun between Drake and Cripin right off the bad, but it's the film's big dinner scene when the gloves come off, and Darke especially lays into Tariq's claim at being a filmmaker and Crispin for being a loser. And just when punches are about to be thrown, a crossbow arrow comes through the window and kills a character. Then about 30 more arrows smash through windows and into furniture, walls, and flesh, with no one knowing exactly why. We see it's these freaks with masks, and some have axes, guns, knives, you name it; they are fully loaded killing machines.

Without getting too much into the plot or who dies or is injured when, it does turn out that Cripin's girlfriend, Erin, has a little more than meets the eye in terms of her ability to deal with this situation, making her the film's one capable action star. The has a great deal of mood-appropriate dark humor, including the recurring sight of Swanberg's Drake with an arrow sticking out of his back for a great deal of the move. But the film's primary objective is to make you jump with well-earned scares, build tension effectively, and provide you with a few inventive kills. On that front, YOU'RE NEXT absolutely delivers, with the added bonus of adding a certain humanity to these characters who would rather fight in the middle of a crisis about some seriously dumb shit than avoid actual danger.

In addition to Vinson's capable portrayal of Erin as a woman of action and self defense, Swanberg and Bowen are especially strong as brothers who have clearly never met eye to eye on anything throughout their lives. What's so smart and enjoyable about YOU'RE NEXT is the spin it puts on the home invasion sub-genre. It's takes something we've seen recently in film like THE STRANGERS, THEM, KIDNAPPED, INSIDE, and FUNNY GAMES (although that film is more a parody of other such films), to name a few. But Barrett and Wingard's take on the material is pretty great and certainly original.

Wingard wisely makes certain we understand the geography of the rather large house (we're told the patriarch works for a weapons contractor and is quite rich), and it doesn't take long with this vacation home in the woods feels terrifyingly claustrophobic in the face of so much relentless danger. The filmmakers thankfully don't spare us on the quite realistic gore. Every single death in the film is awful and violent, without going ridiculously over the top with the blood guts. But it all looks very real, and they make every death mean something to the survivors. It's rare that you get this much actual mourning in a scare film. But when all of the victims are loved ones and relatives, the emotional price is high.

YOU'RE NEXT is a tightly wound, often nasty piece of work with a surprising amount of character development, so that we actually give a shit whether and when someone expires. Without compromising on the horror elements, the movie does justice to the home invasion story while keeping it fresh, unpredictable and terrifying. The film is set for release August 23.

-- Steve Prokopy
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