The decades-long glut of horror movies cannot help but numb the regular filmgoer — especially the horror film fan — to the shocks, effects and jolts that are standard issue in this weary genre.
Too many vampires, serial killers, zombies or alien beasties, too many shrieking, bleeding young women or gutted jocks and eviscerated cops. The movies lose their sting.
Then a film like You're Next comes along and reminds us that all you need to suck fans into your movie are people in jeopardy, pitiless killers and one or two victims who fight back and win our sympathy, giving us someone to root for. All you need to scare the willies out of us, to get that visceral hair-raising reaction, are masked killers and splashes of well-placed viscera.
In You're Next, the adult children of a wealthy couple (Barbara Crampton, Rob Moran) gather in their country house to help them celebrate a wedding anniversary. We barely have time to pick up on the friction over Crispian (A.J. Bowen), an academic, dating a student (Sharni Vinson) — something brother Drake (Joe Swanberg) disapproves of — and the disconnect between hipster brother Felix (Nicholas Tucci), his Goth girlfriend Zee (Wendy Glenn) and bubbly sister Aimee (Amy Seimetz), who is dating a filmmaker (real-life horror filmmaker Ti West).
Then the crossbow bolts come crashing through the window, nobody's cellphone works, and people in the house start dying at the hands of hooded, animal-masked intruders. Is it a random act, part of a spree (we've seen neighbors slaughtered in the opening scene) or some sort of Satanic ritual?
You're Next reaches for laughs with its cheap scares and bizarre reactions to life-or-death situations. People volunteer to "go out there" where the killers are, and get in a car to fetch help, or go upstairs — alone — to check out a noise.
They shout, "It's OK, it's OK," after some horrific bit of butchery, and "Maybe it's over," when the latest slice of slaughter has ended. The one or two hysterics in their ranks are the ones reacting with the proper sense of urgency.
After all, killers who write "you're next" in blood on the wall behind a victim are not to be taken lightly.
One or two of the family assume a defensive posture, arm themselves, cover windows and try to reason or fight their way out of this. The bad guys have their sheep or wolf masks, crossbows and machetes. Let's find us some knives, and maybe a blender or meat tenderizer.
You're Next was shelved for a couple of years. But not because it is damaged goods. The frights are passable, the foreshadowing telling (extreme close-ups of nails being pounded through boards, etc.) and the humor — sick as it is — quite funny.
Don't worry about Crispian — "Crispian's a tough guy."
"No, he's not. But thanks for that."
So if you see just one slaughterhouse horror picture this year, ... .
R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity. Lionsgate. 1:36. Fayette Mall, Georgetown, Hamburg, Movie Tavern, Nicholasville, Richmond, Woodhill.