The first 10 minutes of the new horror film "You're Next" will feel familiar to fans of the genre. Moments after a couple have sex in an isolated location, they're brutally murdered.
Don't give up on the movie.
Through the smart writing of Simon Barrett, the film slowly changes into a horror thriller that will have you questioning who is evil and who is good. It's this ambiguity that makes for a refreshing take on what has become a genre stagnated by too many conventions.
After the predictable start, the action moves down the road to a rather stately manor. It's the site of a family reunion sparked by the parents' wedding anniversary. Each sibling not only brings a date, but more emotional baggage than 10 porters could carry. This all erupts during what should have been a nice evening dinner. It's also where the murders start.
Three masked intruders begin to chop, slice and whack their way through the guest list. What looks like a simple mass murder changes when Erin (Sharni Vinson), the date of spineless son Crispian (AJ Bowen), shows off her survival skills. The one-sided slaughter suddenly becomes a fair fight.
Except for an over-dependency on hand-held cameras, Adam Wingard shows a solid directing style. He's more interested in building tension than focusing on the bloody aftermath of an attack.
He builds suspense, but he doesn't drag it out to the point where the audience starts screaming "Go on! Kill her!" Wingard finds the right tempo.
There are a few lapses where Wingard becomes more concerned with the means of murder than the motive. But there aren't enough of those instances to distract from the story.
The other plus is the performance by Vinson. The petite Aussie actress shows a Lara Croft side as she becomes the sole protector of the group. Unlike the female fodder of most horror movies, she's smart in her actions. She's the one who turns out the lights when being chased by the killers.
The rest of the cast is an interesting mix who pull off the feuding family element. It's fun to see Barbara Crampton as the family matriarch. She brings a nice horror heritage to the movie, having starred in "Re-Animator" and "From Beyond."
There's nothing particularly interesting about any of the anniversary guests, but that's necessary to make the mystery more difficult to unravel. Unlike so many horror films, "You're Next" doesn't cheat with the script for the sake of the action.
Barrett sprinkles the movie with clues but not to the point of making the ending obvious.
"You're Next," rated R for gore, violence, language, nudity. Stars Sharni Vinson, AJ Bowen, Barbara Crampton, Nicholas Tucci. Directed by Adam Wingard. Running time: 96 minutes. Grade: B
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TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.