The Discreet Harm Of The Bourgeoisie: Adam Wingard’s You’re Next (2013) – Blu-ray review
A smart ‘splatire’ that finds fresh blood in the slasher genre by setting events in an affluent manor. Think Cluedo with more imaginative weapons.
(Adam Wingard, 2013)
Next: the scariest word for any filmmaker wanting to dabble in horror. No sooner has a new film arrived that grips audiences in terror, than whoever comes next has to find a way of dealing with altered expectations. No genre demands something bigger, grislier, more taboo-busting… until the line is crossed from innovative to mindlessly sick and the pendulum swings back towards more traditional jumps.
At which point another six-letter word beginning with ‘h’ comes into play: humour. From An American Werewolf In London to Shaun Of The Dead, via Scream and that weird period when Kevin Williamson ruled the multiplex, the comedy-horror is a reliable means of balancing expectations and recalibrating the horror movie back to its funhouse roots of things that go bump in the night. Laughter and screams come from the same innate instinct, after all, and the techniques to extract them similar: shock, surprise and subversion of the norm.
In You’re Next, a sharp script by Simon Barrett plays fair by the rules of both horror and comedy. After a traditionally gory opening salvo, the film settles into a long opening act that is as much comedy of manners as tension-builder. With its plot revolving around a dinner party for a dysfunctional family, we’re almost in Festen territory, making it doubly effective when dessert turns out to be a crossbow through the head: the discreet harm of the bourgeoisie.
As the bodies pile up, the zingers keep coming from the disparity between the brutality and the social background of those involved. When a co-conspirator is accused of never wanting to do anything interesting, he retorts, “That’s hardly a fair criticism,” as if P.G. Wodehouse was suddenly writing about sociopaths. But the greatest twist is that into this already promising set-up, a newcomer has arrived: Sharni Vinson’s Aussie girlfriend Erin, whose eye-rolling at the family has already made her our audience identification point – until it turns out she isn’t quite like us, but a hard-bitten Outbacker with well-honed survivalist training.
At which point, Wingard really starts enjoying himself. His love of horror is apparent in the very real threat presented by the animal-masked assailants: there are bloodily memorable kills and enough (well-timed, well-composed) boo! moments to reveal a connoiseur of old-school technique: no fast-cutting or superfluous CGI, just the confidence to trust to FX craft.
Yet when Erin fights back, the film marries carnage with the chaos of farce, as Vinson tumbles in and out of windows, improvises with booby traps and household appliances, and perfects a poker face to rival Buster Keaton as he sticks yet another sharp implement into yet another head. When a baddie accidentally steps onto an upturned nail, the comparisons become obvious: this is Home Alone with a body count.