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3 YEARS

Toronto 2011: Buyers Circling Horror Pic 'You're Next'

The Adam Wingard thriller had its premiere Saturday night at the Ryerson Theater in the Midnight Madness section and is drawing interest from several distributors.

The question isn't how good the suspense thriller You're Next is, but how quickly will it get scooped up?

The horror thriller directed by Adam Wingard had its Toronto premiere Saturday night, playing before a crowd that at times pressed against the seats in suspense, tensely gripped handles, laughed, and cheered when someone bit the dust in a magnificent fashion.

But the real action took place in the lobby and outside the doors of the Ryerson Theatre, where Lionsgate executives, including chief Joe Drake, huddled on one side, while Summit's Erik Feig paced like a tiger on the other. Weinstein Co. and CBS Films execs were seen on phones, and this being at 2:30 AM, they likely weren't calling their buddies. The buyer interest in the movies wasn't just high, it bordered on salivation.

And why not?

The Midnight Madness sidebar is having a very strong showing this year, and You're Next is definitely not your big brother's home invasion movie. This is not an oppressive, bleak slasher pic where there is no hope. No, sir, this movie shows us a brand new heroine in the form of Australian actress Sharni Vinson, whose character—a girlfriend with some astonishing instincts at a family reunion gone horribly bad—had the audience cheering and clapping.

Make no mistake, though. This movie is violent and the deaths sometimes gruesome. But it's also intelligent, filled with characters that may not do smart things but they do them honestly. And it has a surprisingly strong amount of humor. This is a rare beast: a horror movie with crowd-pleasing potential.

Wingard said during the movie's post-screening Q&A that he wanted to make a Midnight Madness movie after last year's TIFF showing of his A Horrible Way to Die, and his inspiration came from the opening sequence of 1995's Scream, which saw Drew Barrymore face off against a ghost-faced killer in her house. Winard turned to his Horrible Way writer to pen the script.

Wingard used many of his previous actors in the film but had trouble casting the lead. He said the actresses were posing too much, acting tough from the get-go. Not only did it give things away too much and too soon, it wasn't believable. Then came Vinson.

"She had a subtlety to her," he said.
 
While the more prestigious movies at TIFF are drawing mostly mixed reactions from acquisition execs, this low-budget horror movie, which producer Keith Calder said reminded him of "Home Alone as a horror movie," is generating considerable heat, judging by the late-night conversations and buzz.

The next TIFF acquisition just may be You're Next.