The family reunion for the Davison's turns deadly when their secluded vacation home is invaded by a group of masked murderers. Each family member fights back, but it's their guest with a mysterious past (Sahrni Vinson) who proves to be the toughest to kill.

Animal instincts emerge in horrific home invasion.

A deliciously dark exercise in slicing ’n’ dicing, Adam Wingard’s indie horror You’re Next gleefully revels in its nerve-tingling unpleasantness – and makes sure its audience does, too. Working with the same troupe of actors from his calling card film A Horrible Way to Die (2010) and the highly-regarded follow ups What Fun We Were Having and Autoerotic (both 2011), Wingard continues to exhibit his black sense of humour and loving touch for horror storytelling. His ace in the hole here is Aussie actor Sharni Vinson, who gives her all in a brutally physical lead performance.

Vinson gives her all in a brutally physical lead performance

Wingard opens with a scenario that will prove instantly familiar to horror fans: a dirty old man (low-budget filmmaking hero Larry Fessenden) and his twentysomething fling (Kate Lyn Sheil) are put to the sword in an isolated, upscale estate. These two unfortunates are the nearest neighbours of Paul and Audrey Davison (Rob Moran and Re-Animator fan favourite Barbara Crampton), who arrive at their property to prepare for a weekend of anniversary celebrations with their large clan.

With bubbling rivalries and pre-existing tensions established, the party of spoilt brat stereotypes sits down for their evening meal. There’s douche bag big bro Drake (a scene-stealing Joe Swanberg), surly younger sibling Felix (Nicholas Tucci), his goth partner Zee (Wendy Glenn), twenty-something betty Aimee (Amy Seimitz), her inner-city arty beau Tariq (The Innkeepers director Ti West), and Crispian (AJ Bowen), a struggling writer who has fallen back on teaching between inspirations. (One of the few unanswered questions in Simon Barrett’s script is why Vinson’s perky, pretty Erin would bother with him, but I digress.)

Just when the uninitiated may be forgetting the message in the movie’s title, Wingard unleashes 'The Animals’, a trio of black-clad killers wearing animal masks and brandishing crossbows, axes and hunting knives. As the carnage of the home invasion unfolds (full-blooded carnage is Wingard’s specialty), Erin reveals her family’s outback history and survival skills. Vinson heartily adopts her character’s Aussie spirit and leaps into the part. She’s terrific; at the film’s recent MIFF screening, audiences cheered her every minor triumph in the face of The Animals’ bloody attacks.

The plot takes some mostly unexpected twists that maintain the film’s early momentum and offset the creeping feeling that Wingard may have played his best cards too early (a flaw that undid much of the early good work of director Bryan Bertino in 2008’s similarly-themed The Strangers). The director also works particularly well with DOP Andrew Droz Palermo and production designer Thomas S. Hammock to cover geography within the home and its surrounds; never once is the audience taken out of the action by having to wonder, 'How did they get there?’ or 'Wait, that wasn’t there before.’

Wingard indulged in the shaky cam, found footage style with his segments in the V/H/S franchise, but the traditional craftsmanship he displays in You’re Next suggests even greater things await the young filmmaker.

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1 hour 35 min
In Cinemas 29 August 2013,