Hotline Mansion

The slasher genre is a really hit or miss niche of horror film. You could wind up with something truly great like Halloween, or something truly awful like Jason X. In recent years there hasn’t been much for slasher fans to digest, what with the surging popularity of supernatural, zombie, and apocalyptic horror. It seemed to be a genre that was just about dead. Thankfully though, Adam Wingard has given us a great slice of horror with his home invasion slasher flick You’re Next.

Erin Harson (Sharni Vinson) and Crispian Davison (A.J. Bowen) are a happy couple. For one weekend they decide to go to a big family reunion at Crispian’s parent’s huge house in the country. There they meet all of Crispian’s siblings and their lovers/ spouses. During a family dinner it becomes clear that there’s some tension between most of the family members, and their dysfunction begins to ruin the night. As the family argues, things seem like they couldn’t get any worse. Suddenly, crossbow bolts begin flying through the house windows, injuring several of the family. As the blood begins to flow, the family realizes that they’ve become the targets of three sadistic killers in animal masks, and Erin is forced to fight back.

This simple premise is the foundation for some good ol’ fashioned slashes and screams. The movie is quite tense for the first two thirds as the faceless killers stalk and murder the innocent and unprepared family. There’s something eerie about the emotionless animal faces the killers wear that reminds me of Michael Myers from Halloween. They way they observe their kills through two small eye slits is totally unsettling, and helps the movie build a great atmosphere of dread whenever you see one of the masks appear from the darkness. For gamers in the audience, it’s impossible not to draw comparisons to the indie smash hit Hotline Miami, which featured a faceless protagonist who wears animal masks as he goes on delusion fueled killing sprees.

Sadly, much of the tension and mystery of the movie is spoiled towards the end, when the motivation for the killers’ spree and even some of their faces are revealed. It’s not like in Halloween when Michael is unmasked and you get a brief glimpse of a man who never grew out of his dark childhood, in You’re Next you see the killers’ faces and they just become common criminals instead of aspects of terror. This isn’t helped by the horribly weak cliche of a plot twist that explains away most of the mystery. This film would have been far more effective if the motivations behind the massacre remained hidden.

However, the film is still enjoyable. As far as slasher films go most horror fans should be pleased. One thing really helps it rise above mediocrity, and that is Sharni Vinson’s excellent performance as Erin. She is the glue that holds this film together, even after the big reveal. She believably falls into the roll of the reluctant hero, much like Sigourney Weaver in Alien, and indeed becomes as cool and badass. The movie does try to explain her ability to handle the situation, which was a little cheesy, but Sharni plays the line off well and the film moves on. Without her, this film might not have been so fun to watch.

Overall, You’re Next is a solid, and fun time. It may not be the perfect slasher film, but it has enough merits to make it a breath of fresh blood for horror fans. At the end of the day it’s a well shot, well acted, bloody good time.