<b>FAIR GAME:</b> A group of animal-masked killers encounters an unexpected obstacle (Sharni Vinson) in <i>You’re Next</i>.

For those who get squeamish at the sight of blood, or the sight of flesh, or the spirit of invasive, inveterate malevolence unleashed in steady waves, you may be well advised to seek another title besides You’re Next. On the other hand, those otherwise well-adjusted pacifists with a taste for a good slasher picture with a few clever twists of the creative genre-knife … come on down.

In You’re Next, what is continually next is another attack by ruthless marauders in creepy animal masks, lurking outside a large, isolated house and preying upon a family gathered for a reunion — at night and with no cell phone reception, of course. Basically, it’s heebie-jeebie time, replete with creaking doors, shock tactics, and an effectively rankling score lurking in the periphery of our moviegoer mind. In keeping with the slasher film model, simple old-school gunplay is considered gauche (except for a single incident, almost an in-joke anomaly); here blunt blows, slashing blades, and the ancient art of crossbow wielding measure up to the code of battlefront authenticity.

Formula B-movies and indie movies — both categories to which this film applies — share certain traits and restraints, including modest budgets that require resourceful use of whatever means is available. You’re Next, whose cast is serviceable but not always rising above the camp level (the blissful exception being Sharni Vinson as the kick-ass woman who has game and killer wits about her), also deftly capitalizes on its single remote location. Director (and editor) Adam Wingard coaxes as much fun-loving angst as possible from an old house and sneaks in occasional self-effacing humor, as with two lingering, wink-wink shots of killers nestled between their dead prey, resting in the afterglow of satisfaction for a job nicely done.

But what saves You’re Next from the realm of shameless pulp is a plotline that begins to thicken just in time, just as we’re wearying of seeing family members offed in inventive ways. Something more fiendish and surprising bubbles up in the storyline beneath the mayhem, reminding us that the blood-and-guts world can only be popcorny and film-referential fun for so long. Even slasher films need that something extra to make them a cut above. You’re Next manages to be a real brain blender of a newcomer in the field.


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