Thoughts on, and a place to discuss, the plot details we can’t reveal in our review.
Wes Craven’s Scream is one of several genre touchstones Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard pay tribute to with You’re Next—and not just in the sense that some of the dialogue has a slight touch of Kevin Williamson irreverence to it. There’s a big, whopping, Scream-worthy reveal lurking around the two-thirds mark, one that rescues the movie from its increasingly ordinary slasher-flick trajectory. While The Strangers famously opted to give its masked marauders no motive whatsoever, You’re Next eventually reveals that its similarly disguised assailants have actually been hired by one of the sons of the family (Nicholas Tucci), a casual sociopath looking to inherit the family fortune once everyone else is dead. It’s a solid twist, but what’s especially impressive is the way the filmmakers don’t simply exploit it for a quick wave of gasps, but let it drive the rest of the movie. Instead of revealing the shocking truth at the moment the heroine (Sharni Vinson) realizes it, à la Scream, You’re Next lets the audience in on the secret in advance. This is a primo example of what Hitchcock was getting at about the bomb under the table; knowing that certain characters can’t be trusted enhances the suspense, especially during a scene in which Vinson is left alone with the villain’s girlfriend, a pile of two-by-fours, and some very sharp nails.
For anyone keeping track of the various characters, and savvy enough to realize that no one goes MIA from a movie like this without reason, the surprise ending won’t be very surprising at all. Still, it’s satisfying to find out that Vinson’s wimpy boyfriend (AJ Bowen), who flees the scene pretty quickly, is also in on the elaborate murder plot—and even more satisfying to watch him get his comeuppance after attempting to rationalize his involvement.
Just one lingering question, though: Why do the killers murder the neighbors in the opening scene? Is it just to strengthen the official story that the family massacre was a freak incident, performed by motiveless maniacs, and not a targeted attack? Seems like a flimsy justification for butchering a couple of strangers. Then again, this is the brainchild of two guys who would slaughter their own parents and siblings for the cold, hard cash, so…