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'You're Next' review: Thanks but no thanks

**1/2 (out of four)

I arrive home from the screening of “You’re Next” and see the headline, “Cops: ‘Bored’ teen hunted kittens with bow and arrows.” Jeez. As if I didn’t already feel uneasy enough about the gratuitous use of crossbows in this horror-comedy, whose murderers’ killing methods are needlessly messy considering their motive.

Semi-related note: The crossbow accident in “The Five-Year Engagement” wasn’t funny either.

Obviously, Paul (Rob Moran), his wife, Aubrey (Barbara Crampton), their four kids (including Chicago-based “Drinking Buddies” director Joe Swanberg) and their significant others (including Sharni Vinson of “Step Up 3D” and “Drinking Buddies” co-star Ti West) have no idea why their large, isolated home has been overrun by people in animal masks. They just know the dinner table squabble stemming from decades-old sibling rivalry doesn’t seem as significant once someone has an arrow sticking out of his back.

That Paul worked in defense but can’t protect his home recalls this year’s surprise hit “The Purge.” Most home-invasion thrillers feel similar, of course, and director Adam Wingard (“V/H/S”) aims to separate the moderately creepy “You’re Next” from efforts like the great “Funny Games” and decent “The Strangers” with a knowing wink at everyone’s fallibility. The film suggests audiences assume no one has any self-defense abilities, and that those trained in that sort of thing are out of control. Say this for “You’re Next”: Unlike a lot of horror movies, when it’s funny, it’s funny on purpose. Drake (Swanberg) claims, “I don’t think I know any filmmakers,” an in-joke for anyone who knows that “You’re Next” is filled with filmmakers including West (“The Innkeepers”), Amy Seimetz and the guy delivering the line.

Overall, though, these are thin excuses to trot out the usual sequences of maniacs busting through windows and gleeful deaths (like one dude swinging an ax into someone’s head) that add layers of bloodlust-fueling cruelty the film’s premise doesn’t support. Just because some characters are supposed to look stupid doesn’t mean the film itself should crumble under the mildest scrutiny.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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