I had heard positive reviews for this film but managed to avoid reading any details so I had only a vague notion of what it was about. The film seems to have being doing the rounds of the film festivals for ages before it finally got into cinemas and I don’t know how long a violent horror film will last since it’s a lot less mainstream than The Conjuring. I knew that it featured home invasion which is not my favourite thriller genre but this film delivered a bit more than a middle class morality tale and I actually enjoyed it, helped in part by the streak of dark humour in the story.
We get a kind of prologue where a man and his much younger lover are brutally murdered and the words ”You’re Next” are written in blood on a window. This sets up the threat from psychopathic killers wearing animal masks and reminded me of The Strangers.
Crispian Davison (AJ Bowen) is driving to his parents’ large summer vacation house with his Australian girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson) for a family reunion to celebrate his parents’ wedding anniversary. Crispian is a college professor and Erin was one of his students. His parents Paul (Rob Moran) and Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) are very wealthy and have already arrived at the house. They passed their neighbour’s house and it’s the one where the murders happened but everything looks fine from the outside so they carried on. Paul is puzzled to discover the front door is open. Aubrey is unsettled but Paul has a look inside and nothing seems to be disturbed.
Aubrey starts taking the dust sheets off the furniture while Paul is unloading the car. She hears the sound of someone moving around upstairs and freaks out, telling Paul they have to leave immediately this would have been a good idea but we’re in a horror film so Paul gets Aubrey to wait outside while he checks upstairs. He was sceptical but when he gets upstairs also hears the sounds of someone but doesn’t find anyone and his search is interrupted by the arrival of Crispian and Erin. The rest of the family are arriving the following day.
When Drake (Joe Swanberg) and his wife Aimee (Amy Seimetz) arrive it’s obvious there is long running bitterness between Crispian and his older brother which stretches the patience of their father. Drake is arrogant and dismissive towards Crispian while Crispian is defensive and aggressive towards Drake. They slip so easily into their antagonistic roles like they are teenage boys again and its quit amusing these overgrown children bickering. The others arrive in a group: Kelly (Margaret Laney) is with her boyfriend Tariq (Ti West) and the youngest brother Felix (Nicholas Tucci) has brought his unpleasant punky girlfriend Zee (Wendy Glenn). You can tell this is going to an interesting weekend.
That evening they all sit around the table and we get some very typical awkward interactions. Drake asks Tariq what he does and Tariq says he’s documentary director and when everyone is suddenly interested in Tariq Drake drags himself into centre stage with boorish ignorant career advice for Tariq as if has a clue what he’s talking about. After that he starts with sotto voce comments about the relationship between Crispian and Erin just to piss Crispian off and it works.
The dysfunctional dinner party is interrupted by a crossbow bolt smashing through the window right into someone’s head. Everyone panics and Drake gets a crossbow bolt in his shoulder. I’m not going to give any more details than that but safe to say that we are in a “house under siege” situation and this where Erin steps up from the background as someone who knows how to turn the terrible odds in her favour in some very brutal and creative ways. While the Davison family are coming up with all sorts of ideas guaranteed to get someone killed Erin is tries to stop them doing stupid things such as running out the front door to get to their cars. This is preceded by a very childish argument between Drake and Crispian about who is the fastest runner and of course the stupid plan does result in another death.
This film is more than a home invasion film and the story takes a sharp turn about halfway through but the character of Erin is consistently badass and she really steals centre stage in this film thanks to some cool direction and a great performance from Sharni Vinson. I think the other actors get some unfair stick for their performances but I didn’t see much wrong and the bickering between and Drake and Crispian was very well done. I enjoyed this film which took the home invasion story and give it a twist. It has an interesting soundtrack which deliberately references the music from 80s horror films and reminded me of the music in the films of Lucio Fulci at times.