People who are excited to see You're Next this weekend fall into two categories: the fresh crowd and those who've been impatiently waiting for two years now. The former group is comprised of folks who've seen those attention-grabbing commercials during shows like Breaking Bad and The Bridge, the spots with scared actors frantically trying to evade killers wearing creepy animal masks. As for the second squad, it's been a seemingly endless wait to see what some genre critics hailed as "the next Scream" way back in September 2011, when You're Next premiered as part of the Toronto International Film Festival's Midnight Madness section. Two weeks after its TIFF screening, You're Next played at the annual Austin, TX, genre blowout Fantastic Fest, receiving similarly glowing reviews.
Distinction as horror's "next big thing" seemed imminent—and then the film fell off the face of the festival circuit. Everyone who read all of its TIFF and Fantastic Fest press were left hanging, indefinitely. They wanted to see You're Next, but they were assed out.
It was all for the best, though. In the grand scheme of things for You're Next director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett, the two-year build-up has been a good thing. A very good thing.
The lengthy hold-up sprang from the fact that their little independently made horror flick—shot inconspicuously over the course of one month in Columbia, Missouri, in mid-2011—was purchased for distribution by the legendary genre film distributor Lionsgate Films, the company that released American Psycho (2000) before solidifying its legacy in 2004 by launching the now-iconic Saw franchise. Now that You're Next is finally being unveiled theatrically, Lionsgate's been killing it with the pre-release promotions, bombarding bus stops, subway stations, and highway billboards with the film's clever marketing strategy: Sell the hell out of those animal masks. Such enthusiastic marketing is easy for a major studio when the film in question delivers the goods, and You're Next does.
Self-aware, comedically sharp, and satisfyingly tense and gory, You're Next starts off with a familiar enough set-up. A group of wealthy, stuck-up thirty-somethings siblings (played by AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Nicholas Tucci, and Amy Seimetz) gather at their Davison family mansion, along with their significant others (including The House of the Devil director Ti West), to celebrate their parents' (Rob Moran and O.G. scream queen Barbara Crampton) 35th wedding anniversary. Before dessert's served, though, a gang of masked intruders show up with a crossbow, machete, and an ax. But the killers quickly realize that Crispian Davison's (Bowen) new girlfriend, Erin (Sharni Vinson), is more than the friendly, loving woman she appears to be—she's a fighter. And she's ready to beat fools down.
The origins of You're Next are as humble as can be. Best friends for years now, filmmakers Wingard and Barrett made the film with other buddies, most of whom are either directors in their own right or had previously acted in each other's indies. No one involved with You're Next could have ever expected it to become a major motion picture, particularly one that's been this summer's most heavily marketed horror property. But this was certainly their dream scenario from the beginning. Thus, You're Next represents a rarity in Hollywood: An excellent movie made without any pretensions by average Joes that infiltrates the mainstream. That's something to celebrate.
Through a series of interviews with the film's core makers (Wingard, Barrett, Vinson, Bowen, and Swanberg), Complex uncovered the complete back-story on how You're Next went from aspirations as simple as "please play our movie at Midnight Madness" to a big-time studio release whose trailer played in front of a Brad Pitt movie.
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Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)