Synopsis – The graduating class at Osborne High is being targeted by a masked assailant, intent on exposing the darkest secret of each victim, and only a group of misfit outsiders can stop the killings.
My Take – When it comes to horror sub genres comparatively I enjoy a slick slasher the most. A good reason for that would be that I grew up in 90s, a period where horror was dominated by a specific breed of slasher films like Scream (1996), Scream 2 (1997), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), and Urban Legend (1998). These films specifically blotted out supernatural elements, featured high school or college students as intended targets and contained themes that teased social commentary amidst the violent entertainment.
While the sub-genre fizzled out in the 2000s, due to studios over reliance on investing on unimaginative sequels, but with the success of the very clever Happy Death Day (2017) and the record-breaking reemergence of Halloween (2018), we’re now in the middle of a full-blooded renaissance. A success doubled down by this summer’s Netflix’s excellent Fear Street trilogy.
Hence it sounded like exciting news when the streaming giant decided to adapt author Stephanie Perkins‘s 2017 novel which from its premise seemed exactly like the 90s sleepover pick we would have rented out at the local video store. And with Henry Gayden (Shazam!) writing, Patrick Brice (Creep, Creep 2) directing along and Shawn Levy (Stranger Things, Free Guy) and James Wan (The Conjuring, Insidious) attached as producers, expectations were understandably high. Unfortunately, the final results are quite underwhelming.
Commendably diverse and deplorably unflinching, director Patrick Brice’s teen-slasher film attempts to both update and bow to a genre that peaked decades ago. But in trying to have it both ways, he has created a messy, overstuffed parody of moral policing that squanders the promise of its cleverly executed opening, and then continues to sink as the body count rises.
Simply told, the film just doesn’t get into your head the way a good slasher does, and instead relies too heavily on explicit references resulting in being an all too usual thriller filled with predictable twists and lacking good character arcs. There is one creepy conceit in the film, but that one genuinely spooky detail can’t counter how disappointing and unremarkable familiar everything else is.
Set in the fictional town of Osborne, Nebraska, the story follows Makani Young (Sydney Park), who has fairly recently moved from Hawaii following a traumatic event to live with her grandmother and finish high school. But as graduation comes closer, the insular community is left shocked by the gruesome murder of football player Jackson Pace (Markian Tarasiuk). The photos strewn around Jackson’s dead body and a text to everyone in town reveal an ugly secret: He once beat up teammate Caleb Greeley (Burkely Duffield) in a hazing ritual gone too far.
Though Makani didn’t know Jackson very well, and just wants to move along with her friends the outspoken Alex (Asjha Cooper), sensitive Rodrigo (Diego Josef), space-obsessed Darby (Jesse LaTourette), and irresponsible Zach (Dale Whibley), who believe that the town’s notorious problem child, Ollie (Théodore Pellerin), with whom she has been having a hush-hush romance for some time, is the main suspect.
However, what worries Makani the most is that the secrets of her classmates have become fair game to a killer who exposes them and then murders them while wearing a 3D printed mask of his victim’s face, may also know about the one she is harboring.
My biggest complaint from the film comes from the fact it relies on simplistic dynamics in the name of world-building. Here, the only aspect common among all victims is a ‘big secret’ that they carry. But not all of them are so bad that you think they should get killed for. They are the usual issues a teenager faces – bullying and substance abuse.
The film tries to adapt the story for a modern-day retelling by including some latest technology to the story line with 3D printed masks and the tech to send messages, revealing the so-called secret of the victim to the entire town. The killer wearing the mask, resembling the face of his victim, is disturbingly unique and interesting.
But director Brice builds the film’s suspense in shopworn ways; his go-to move involves forcing the potential victim into a cramped space that can be repeatedly penetrated by a huge knife. Viewers squeamish about the Achilles tendon will suffer one rough moment early on, but the rest of the kills are mostly generic.
The characters also lack any arc throughout the narrative. Since the film does not take enough time to introduce the characters, they don’t seem relatable either. It’s a diverse cast that especially is something that needs to be seen more so it’s important to celebrate it, especially as these characters are very much just people and not stereotypes based on their various identities, however, they are often really contradictory and it’s kind of annoying. While on one hand they’re ultra-woke and meant to be the nice group of oddballs in the school, they’re also very judgmental and often make jokes about the murders of their classmates.
Like other films of the sub-genre, this one too functions as a mystery of sorts, but one to which the solution has been made inadvertently obvious. It leaves several hints throughout the narrative at the possibility of Ollie being the mysterious serial killer as he is seen stalking Makani but if you have watched many thrillers, you know that it is too obvious to be true. Ollie’s arrest is also something that you see coming and only makes it more believable that he is not the serial killer.
The whole set up has been conceived in such a way that there’s realistically only one person who could be the murderer, and that’s indeed who it is. The film also attempts to make up for its woeful lack of characterization and originality by leaning into self-aware humor. Admittedly, it does work in some regards. When it doesn’t, though, it bothers on being only grating.
Performance wise, Sydney Park makes for a good lead and pairs well Théodore Pellerin who brings the film’s most earnest turn. While in supporting roles, Dale Whibley, Asjha Cooper, Diego Josef, Jesse LaTourette, Burkely Duffield, Sarah Dugdale and Markian Tarasiuk are alright. On the whole, ‘There’s Someone Inside Your House’ is a disappointing slasher that is too blandly dependent on similar but successful films.
Directed – Patrick Brice
Rated – R
Run Time – 96 minutes