The complaint that could be made of Adam Wingards films this side of the 2010s is that he has neglected original works in favour of having fun in the boys club where he has become the most prolific director working on an increasing number of multi-director anthologies, having directed segments of The ABCs of Death (2012), V/H/S (2012) and V/H/S/2 (2013). The episodes he has delivered for these have seemed trivial and forgettable at best; to be making no real effort at worst (the Q is for Quack episode of The ABCs of Death). It is good then to see Wingard back at directing full-length material where he can flex his muscle and fulfill the promise he has demonstrated elsewhere. You're Next is not entirely free of the sense of the boys club and the cast is filled with a number of Wingards in-club directors the brother Drake who gets an arrow in his back is played by Joe Swanberg, Wingards co-director of Autoerotic and director of a number of original non-horror mumblecore films; Ti West, the rising director of The House of the Devil (2009) and The Innkeepers (2011) plays the underground documentary-maker who gets killed early in the show; while Larry Fessenden, the head of Glass Eye Pix and director of Habit (1997), Wendigo (2001), The Last Winter (2006) and Beneath (2013), plays the neighbour who is killed in the prologue and spends the rest of the film as a naked body on the couch.
You're Next premiered in the Midnight Madness section of the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival but for reasons unclear sat on a shelf until it received a theatrical release in 2013 where it promptly became Adam Wingards most high-profile film to date. Several critics alikened it to a slasher film but that is not quite the case it resembles more one of the home invasion thrillers that we have seen in the last few years with the likes of Funny Games (1997), The Strangers (2008), Kidnapped (2010), Mothers Day (2010), The Aggression Scale (2012), In Their Skin (2012), The Purge (2013) and Berkshire County (2014). (The killers in their animal masks remind of very much of The Strangers).
As soon as he gets past the set-up scenes, Adam Wingard has a clear and singular purpose to brutalise the characters and give the audience an intensive workout. To this extent, the film strips the characters to not much beyond a few descriptive sketches and then lets Wingard go for broke. At which you cannot deny he does a fair job. This is one of those Everyone Dies in the End films and the despatches come with harsh and unsentimental regard. Thankfully, this is also not one of the modern horror films that sees the need to keep making reference to other horror films (at most, Wingard gets in a cameo from genre regular Barbara Crampton of Re-Animator (1985) as the mother) or spoofing the conventions. The film never particularly wades in blood at least in the sense of a Saw sequel but Wingard doesnt exactly hold back either. The plot holds a number of whiplash twist and surprises that keeps everything interesting. And the result is an undeniably satisfying show all around.
All of the largely unknown cast, who are notedly in their thirties upwards as opposed to the usual good-looking teens, play well. Many of these come from Wingards regular troupe of actors. Australian actress Sharni Vinson, last seen dealing with killer sharks in a supermarket in Bait (2012), gets a particularly punishing workout as the groups survivalist-minded Final Girl.