Director: Adam Wingard
Screenwriter: Simon Barrett
Cast: Sharni Vinson, AJ Bowen, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, Joe Swanberg, Barbara Crampton, Amy Seimetz, Ti West
Rated R | 91 Minutes
Release Date: August 23, 2013
Coined by Carol J. Clover in her 1992 book Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, the “Final Girl” is a popular trope in horror films that refers to the last woman alive to fight the killer.
Sally Hardesty from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre; Ellen Ripley in Alien; Halloween‘s Laurie Strode; Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy from A Nightmare on Elm Street – all of these are resilient women who are masculinized through “phallic appropriation” by taking up a weapon, like a knife or chainsaw, against their would-be killer.
The “Final Girl” convention forces the male audience to identify with a female character in a male-oriented genre associated with exploitation, voyeurism, and brutality. Think about horror movies – slasher films in particular – how many of them end with a lone male survivor?
If you haven’t read Clover’s book, I would highly recommend it, as it raises some interesting questions about the nature of horror films and their relationship to feminism. It seems that for a horror film to be successful, it’s necessary for the surviving character to be female – even if she is masculinized.
This brings us to Adam Wingard‘s latest film, You’re Next. Written by Simon Barrett, You’re Next isn’t interested in deconstructing the horror genre or mocking its tropes, but rather reinvigorating them. The “Final Girl” is resurrected in the form of Erin (Sharni Vinson), a survivalist who fights a gang of axe-wielding psychopaths in creepy animal masks.
If Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods is a love-hate letter to horror, then Wingard’s film is an epic sonnet about how bad he wants to make sweet, sweet love to ’80s slasher flicks. In the way George Lucas’ Star Wars reflected his respect and admiration for Joseph Campbell’s work in comparative mythology, You’re Next is Wingard’s master thesis on the combined works of John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and Sean S. Cunningham.
Vinson is a force to be reckoned with and is like the bad-ass offspring of John McClane and Ellen Ripley, rigging deadly traps and securing weapons to protect those around her from a trio of killers armed with machetes, axes, and crossbows. While I’ve focused on Vinson’s breakout performance, You’re Next features an impressive ensemble: AJ Bowen, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, Amy Seimetz, Rob Moran, and legendary scream queen Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, Chopping Mall).
Indie filmmakers Joe Swanberg (V/H/S, Drinking Buddies) and Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers) also appear, with Swanberg stealing more than a few scenes with some brilliant comedic work – he spends most of the film with a crossbow bolt in his back, blacking out from the pain in between arguing with his brother (Bowen).
While the film is being sold as a straightforward home invasion film in the vein of The Strangers, You’re Next is an endlessly fun and entertaining movie that delivers genuine scares and big laughs.
Kudos to Wingard and Barrett for making an old school horror flick that focuses on character, with a great script and gore-tastic practical effects. Scary, funny, and cleverly conceived, You’re Next is one of the best films of 2013.
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