You’re Next: The final girl’s feminist peak
With a throwback vibe to the ‘80s that will make every horror fan drool, and a badass female protagonist like no other, You’re Next is an amazingly crafted addition to the horror canon, as well as one of the best slashers from modern times.
After the early ‘00s had fallen into a pit of despair with a proliferation of bad remakes and poorly written horror films that focused on jump scares and left the screenplay out of the equation, a group of young directors started to understand that the horror genre was in dire need of a change in direction. That is how they came together and paved the way for a new tendency to enter the genre: What critics would go on to call mumblegore.
This is a concept that is still very much under the radar, and I don’t think it has been talked about as much as it should be -to be honest, I just discovered it very recently myself-. The term was coined from the more general mumblecore to refer specifically to horror. It was used to describe horror films that placed their attention in creating a story that revolved around character development and naturalistic dialogues. Plus, they were films that were often deemed low budget, thus allowing them to focus more on the aforementioned aspects. And even though it apparently was a short-lived tendency, mumblegore breathed new life into the horror genre, bringing along names that have created some of the best and most original horror films of the century, such as Ti West, Joe Swanberg, A.J. Bowen, and Adam Wingard. All of which, I must add, were involved in You’re Next one way or another.
You’re Next is not only one of the best pieces the so-called mumblegore left us, but it is also one of the best horror films of the 2010s. Directed by Adam Wingard, the film is a classic tale of home invasion. It follows Erin, a woman who goes spend the weekend on the suburbs with her boyfriend and his family, where they will all have to face a group of masked strangers who have entered their home, intent in killing each and every one of them. As one can tell by the plot, the film follows a classic slasher formula. And there lies the beauty of it.
You’re Next stays true to the horror tradition it knows it is built upon, which is made clear in multiple ways, from the direction to the appearance of a classic horror scream queen: Barbara Crampton. Something that I particularly enjoy -and also will forever praise- is the score. Not only is it effective in setting the perfect thrilling atmosphere where the film will unfold, but it also has the ability to transport you to a John Carpenter film -which is quite something, considering Carpenter made some of the best soundtracks in the history of horror-. But however devout to the classics, the film still manages to bring in something new, with just the right amount of gore and an impressive twist.
But what stands above everything else is our main character: Erin, the ultimate final girl. I could dedicate an entire article to talk about the importance and the legacy of the final girl as a horror trope. But I’m not going to do that here. All I have to say is that, as you know by now, it is a trope that I love analyzing, and one that has become increasingly feminist throughout the years. Now, a lot of horror fans will crucify me for saying this, but I will stand by it: Sharni Vinson’s Erin beats Laurie Strode or Nancy Thompson any day.
You’re Next signified a turning point for the female protagonist in slashers, because Erin is, in fact, our final girl, but she exemplifies everything a final girl is not -at least in its classical conception-. She is not an innocent, naïve, purified virgin. Quite the contrary, she was bred to be a fighter and she shows it time and time again by gruesomely taking down everyone in her way. She is not a scream queen because she does not scream. She always keeps a level head, takes the matter into her own hands, and strategizes to the point that every one of her moves is downright brilliant. Not to mention she can also be cold-hearted and vengeful, thus proving furthermore that she is not the one scared in this situation: she is the one to fear. Erin is the personification of the feminist final girl at her highest point. She is Wingard’s biggest accomplishment, and by far the most significant mark he has left in the horror genre.
You’re Next is, without a doubt, a modern masterpiece of horror. And any true horror fan will acknowledge the brilliancy of it. The film arrived in 2011 to set off an amazing decade for horror and revamp the slasher subgenre by taking it back to the beginning and, at the same time, bringing it up to date, with Wingard joining some of his friend’s finest works to reignite the genre and make way for the times we now live in: those of the Horror Renaissance.