For me, there are a few films where the use of a song creates a marriage of sight and sound so perfectly realized that it elicits goose bumps and forever ingrains itself into my psyche. The moments are usually fleeting, as in a montage in Boogie Nights, where, set to the strains of Walter Egan’s 70s ballad, "Magnet and Steel", we see Dirk Diggler karate kick in silhouette as he celebrates at the pinnacle of his popularity, or in Rushmore, as, fresh from unleashing a hive’s worth of bees into the room of his rival, Max Fisher emerges from an elevator in glorious slow motion, a wise-ass smirk on his face while the outro of The Who’s “A Quick One” swells in the background. While it may not create as much of an emotional stir as the previous examples, Adam Wingard’s liberal use of The Dwight Twilley Band’s 1977 obscurity, “Looking for the Magic”, in his darkly comic, ultra-violent siege film, You're Next, is still nothing short of a genius move, juxtaposing the horrific imagery onscreen with a relentlessly catchy-yet-haunting pop song that, ultimately, becomes something of a character in the film, itself.
We first hear the deceptively cheerful ditty in the film’s pre-credits sequence whereupon, after a quick sex scene, a young woman plays the song while her lover (Larry Fessenden in a cameo) washes up. She’s quickly dispatched (off camera), and when the man emerges from the shower, he sees what appears to be words scrawled in blood on the sliding glass doors. He looks at the bloody scrawling in disbelief, but soon discovers the body of his brutalized girlfriend, and is just as quickly engaged in a losing bout of fists vs. blade with a man in a pale white lamb’s head mask. The struggle knocks the CD player into loop mode, and the camera pulls back revealing the words scrawled on the doors – You’re Next.
We’re then introduced to Paul and Aubrey (Rob Moran and Barbara Crampton), an older couple en route to their isolated “vacation home” (a mammoth Tudor that could swallow my own house seven times over) where they’re preparing for a weekend reunion with their children and their respective significant others. First to arrive is Crispian (AJ Bowen), a college professor/failed writer and his former student/current lover, Erin (Sharni Vinson, the Aussie hottie from Bait 3D who possesses a majestic ass you could bounce a quarter off of. PA-DOW!). They’re soon joined by the sycophantic Drake (mumblecore auteur, Joe Swanberg) and his prissy wife, Aimee (Amy Seimetz), who both take an instant dislike to Crispian’s new girlfriend while, at the same time, go out of his way to remind him what a disappointment he’s been to the family. Rounding out the reunion attendees, we have youngest brother, Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and his goth girlfriend, Zee (Wendy Glenn), and kid sister, Kelly (Sarah Myers) and her pretentious filmmaker boyfriend, Tariq (Ti West).
It’s an eclectic gathering for sure, and it makes for a very tense dinner that, in the midst of a terse exchange between Crispian and Drake, is interrupted when, seeing something outside, an inquisitive Tariq peaks out a window and his curiosity is rewarded by a crossbow bolt through his eyeball. After the initial shock of seeing one of their dinner guests bleeding out on their expensive Indian carpet, everyone scrambles to call for help, but quickly discover that they no longer have cellphone service. Felix suggests that whoever it is outside may be using some sort of jamming device, meaning that, if they want to get help, they’ll need to make a run for it. The home invaders – Lamb Mask, Tiger Mask, and Fox Mask - have all of the exits covered, however, and seem to have prepared for just about everything. Well, that is everything but a pissed off Australian chick with extensive survivalist training and a few dirty tricks of her own. Thus begins a darkly humorous and gloriously violent game of Cat (and lamb, and fox) and mouse that plays out like the bastard child of Agatha Christie and Sam Peckinpah.
I absolutely loved You’re Next. I didn’t expect to, seeing as how horror films that are popular with a lot of my fellow critics tend to disappoint me (Insidious, Sinister, The Conjuring, etc), but, this time out, I found it more than lived up to the hype. While the plot isn’t anything new or exceptional and any film fan worth his or her salt should see the “twists” coming for miles, You’re Next is still head and shoulders above any horror film released in the past year. It’s all in the execution, of which there are several, and almost all of which are inventive, funny, and, in one case, so elegantly staged it literally left my jaw hanging. I won’t ruin it for anyone, but it’s a lengthy scene involving the aforementioned Dwight Twilley ditty and a revisit to the home from the beginning of the film. It’s just pure macabre movie magic!
You’re Next comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate, and is presented in a very nice 2.35:1 transfer that is sharp and exceptionally detailed, with a vibrant, gold-hued color palette that makes for a perfect backdrop for the buckets of red stuff spilled on-screen. Blacks are rich and true, with no blocking or artifacting, and the image, as a whole, has a nice sense of depth and dimension. The complimenting 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio mix is simply AMAZING stuff from the get go, with robust bass and crisp highs, organic sounding dialogue, and a really convincing surround mix that works all angles of the room.
Bonus features include two feature-length commentary tracks – the first with Wingard and writer, Simon Barrett (who pulled double duty as Tiger Mask), while the second track features Wingard, Barrett, and stars Sharni Vinson and Barbara Crampton. We’re also given a short making-of featurette (in HD) entitled No Ordinary Home Invasion: The Making of “You’re Next”, and trailers for this and other Lionsgate releases.
You’re Next is a funny, exceptionally gory, and highly entertaining black comedy/thriller that features a few good scares, a lot of laughs, and elegant direction by Wingard, who, since really gaining traction with his well-received 2010 serial killer flick, A Horrible Way to Die, has emerged as one of the strongest and most unique new voices in horror. You're Next is another very assured step forward for Wingard, and comes very highly recommended.