Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen this! Which, apparently I saw this at some point in 2015, I think? But I do not remember it at all. I found a Tweet of mine in 2015 saying I watched it (but further said I was too lazy to put it on the blog), but I must’ve memory-holed this. Nothing seems familiar. I’m at a loss to explain that.
The premise of the film is that a family gathers at the parents’ retirement home, and get attacked by people in a home-invasion style horror movie.
As far as title sequences go, that’s a pretty effective title sequence for a horror movie, aka, the movie opens with two lovers getting attacked, and the second lover sees, “You’re Next,” scrawled in the first lover’s blood on what looks to be a sliding glass backdoor. Off the top of my head, I’m not sure I’ve seen another movie, horror or otherwise, incorporate the title sequence into the actual film.
When the parents, Aubrey Davison (played by Barbara Crampton) and Paul Davison (played by Rob Moran) are getting the house ready for their son, Crispian Davison (played by A.J. Bowen) and his girlfriend, Erin (played by Sharni Vinson), Aubrey hears a noise she thinks came from upstairs. She tells Paul about it, and then immediately starts running toward the front door, saying they need to get out of the house because someone’s in it.
I love that! That’s subversive for the home invasion genre: When have you ever seen someone react that way to a noise going bump in the night? Usually it’s to have the reaction that Paul has of, “I’m going to go investigate.” It’s a bit of black humor at the start.
Before the mayhem really gets rolling, we get some nice character building in little, realistic moments, with Crispian talking to his dad about a fellowship (and dad’s resulting disappointment), and the interplay between Crispian’s brother Drake Davison (played by Joe Swangberg) and his wife (played by Sarah Myers), where Sarah’s complaining about Erin, and Drake just wants to get frisky, but she’s not feeling it. It comes across like very real, relatable exchanges. Characters! Development!
Plus, something I’ll probably talk more extensively about in a separate blog post is that I appreciate what seems like the new trend in horror over the last few years to get away from the 1970s-1990s style of horror where a lot of horror movies centered around teens. Now we get horror involving adults, and often, no offense to teens, it makes for better dialogue, characterization, and acting. I’m not saying there aren’t great horror movies with a teen cast, but I think studios had a proclivity for no-name teen actors because they’re cheaper. The turn to adult actors who can, well, act, is a nice change of pace.
My favorite part in any horror film is the “crap hitting the fan” moment: When all hell breaks loose. Let’s see if I can come up with another cliche. But you know what I mean. Here, that’s when the crossbow arrow pierces Tariq’s (played by Ti West) head during the family dinner. Tariq is Aimee Davison’s (played by Amy Seimetz) boyfriend.
The best two things about that moment is first, that everyone is slow to react to it because it’s a reality-shattering moment. You don’t expect to see that, so naturally, you’re going to be slow to react to it. Secondly, even when the crap has hit the fan, arrows are flying, and he himself has an arrow STICKING OUT OF HIS BACK, Drake manages to question the sketchiness of his brother, Felix Davison (played by Nicholas Tucci, who sadly passed away in March from cancer). When you can juggle horror with black comedy effectively like that, I’m all for it. Again, I could see that happening. I could see even in a dire circumstance like that, stupid family squabbles still bubbling to the surface.
Felix thinks someone should make a run for it, and asks who the fastest is. Drake responds that he’s the fastest but he has an arrow in his back. Then Aimee gets upset because she thinks she’s fast but nobody believes in her. I’m dead. This is great. Naturally, the second Aimee steps outside the house, she runs into a wire and has her throat slit.
One of the most effective scenes in any horror film, and particularly original in a home invasion one is when the mother is upstairs on the bed weeping, and one of the killers in a fox mask (I think) reveals they were under the bed the entire time. He slithers out and attacks her. The best part? When everyone comes running, the killer doesn’t run away. He goes right back to hiding under the bed, then pops out again to scare Kelly and me; I about jumped out of my skin. Good grief.
Then Erin gets a bad-ass moment when the tiger mask killer boldly bursts through the window to attack her, and she responds by kicking his ass and killing him, rather brutally though. And that’s what’s also wild and daring about this film, is that the killers are right there in the house. They’re “invading” from the inside out.
And that’s because it turns out Felix and Zee are in on it the whole time. Yikes. That’s a nice twist. Jeez, that makes Felix recommending somebody make a run for it (presumably knowing the wire was in place) all the more sinister.
We then learn that the reason Erin is holding her own with these monsters is that she grew up in a survivalist camp. Also, I think the reason she was ready to take on the villains is that, unlike everyone else in the film, who is either in on it or a member of the family, she’s not bogged down by the family drama like they are. She’s focused and ready to go.
A wild scene that plays on the horrific tension, but also black comedy is when Felix tries to kill Drake by stabbing him multiple times with screwdrivers (horrific) and then cries out, “Will you just die already? This is hard enough for me.” Gah. The black comedy is played so well in this film.
Erin then starts doing some fun Home Alone style stuff to try to kill off Felix, Zee and the killer in the fox mask. Watching her scrappy fighting off of Felix and Zee is fun. It gets a bit wild, to say the least, when she kills Felix with a blender (literally, she plugs in the blender and blends his head), but hey, points for inventiveness.
Oh snap, I thought for sure, the only thing that would backfire on Erin is that Crispian would finally come back and walk through the brick/ax trap she set at the front door. But turns out, Crispian was also in on it! These two brothers must be really hate their family.
But they wanted to inherent their parents’ fortune. Gross.
Finally, at the end, a cop shows up and we get our first gunshot of the movie: When he shoots Erin, thinking she’s bad. Luckily she seems to survive. Not so luckily for the cop, as he walks into her earlier trap and gets an ax to the face.
Overall, this is surely one of the best horror films of the 2010s, and a fresh, fun take on the home invasion sub-genre of horror. Particularly impressive given that it came on the heels of another favorite of mine among that sub-genre, 2008’s The Strangers. It managed to be inventive, subversive and dare I say, even funny amid all the chaos and horror.
Sharni Vinson as Erin really makes the movie, though. She’s entirely believable as the bad-ass protagonist fending her way, one-by-one, through all the villains. When Crispian is giving his monologue about how he’ll give her $500,000 in the inheritance, the absolute dead, disbelieving look in her eyes is played so well.
Apparently, she’s gone on to do two more horror films, so I’m definitely going to check those out.
If you’re into horror, grotesque horror, and scary horror, then you’re going to be a fan of this film.