It is official: my weak spot is 90s-style horror slashers. On the heels of the excellent Fear Street trilogy, Netflix delivers a fourth slasher this year that I loved from start to finish. The new horror film from director Patrick Brice (the brilliant found-footage horror Creep) and Shazam screenwriter Henry Gayden is brimming with passion for the genre, and strict adherence to its bevy of established rules. Opening kill, final girl, unmasked killer reveal—it’s all here, and the execution of these familiar elements comes with snappy dialogue, gory kills, and the backdrop of a quiet Nebraska town. Based on the bestselling novel by Stephanie Perkins, the dark humor, fascinating roster of diverse characters, and eerie atmosphere elevate There’s Someone Inside Your House into something special.
In the aftermath of the brutal opening kill of Osbourne High’s douchey football player, Jackson (Markian Tarasiuk), the entire town becomes aware of a seriously awful hazing incident committed on gay teen, Caleb (Burkely Duffield). The killer sends out a video, and just like that, Jackson, who “lived every day like it was the fourth quarter,” has his secrets laid bare. Makani (Sydney Park) and her friends Alex (Asjha Cooper), Zach (Dale Whibley), Rodrigo (Diego Josef), and Darby (Jesse LaTourette) have conflicted feelings about this bully being killed, especially as people in school start pointing the finger at Caleb. When a second victim turns up dead, Makani becomes even more nervous about her mysterious past being revealed. The masked killer seems to be specifically targeting those with hidden secrets. Makani and her group of misfits (and her sort-of-boyfriend Ollie, played by Theodore Pellerin) must unmask this assailant before he targets one of them next…
The title of the movie incites an automatic tense atmosphere, and constantly kept me on my toes. Each time a character was alone, I was unsure if the stage was being set for the next victim. As in the greats, “everybody’s a suspect.” The film does an impressive job when it comes to shining light on each character; someone as insignificant as the town’s desperate Uber driver becomes a potential stalker. They all seem to be hiding secrets in one way or another, whether it be Rodrigo’s pill-popping or Ollie’s shadowy bad-boy behavior. No secret looms larger than Makani’s, and when it is finally revealed, it is well worth the wait. That the killer represents one big metaphor for everyone putting on fake faces and trying to disguise who they really are only serves to further emphasize the focus on secrets. Think: I Know What You Did Last Summer, but if basically everyone had different terrible hidden secrets.
The killer’s mask is something that warrants discussion as well. As with any masked-killer-stalking-teens film, the mask is essential. It can make or break the entire vibe if the primary mask looks silly (Halloween 4 is a tragic example of this unfortunate metric). Here, for each kill, the mask is completely different, reflective of an eerie 3D-printer-style copy of each person’s yearbook photo. The mask will be reflective of whatever respective victim is about to be offed, adding an extra layer of creepy. In a way, they are forcing the other person to reflect on themselves as a whole just before savagely taking them out. It morphs into the killer’s own personal form of poetic justice if you will—the ever-changing nature means you never get bored of seeing the same mask over and over again. As a major plus, the eventual unmasking reveal totally fits the personality of that character.
As far as body count goes, There’s Someone Inside Your House is relatively small for a standard slasher. However, every kill counts. Each is blood-splattered and varied, staged for prime audience consumption. One of my biggest pet peeves (especially within this subgenre) are off-screen kills when you know perfectly well that the majority of your audience wants to revel in the excitement of a violent character death. There’s Someone Inside Your House thankfully never makes this mistake. Only in the cornfield-set finale do we get bystanders dispatched—every other death in this movie carries weight, and most importantly, is fun. None is more exemplified than the satirical edge to the opening, as Jackson pleads his case to the killer: “Do you want money? I can Venmo you right now!” Each murder is also beautifully shot, as in a church-set slaughter where knife slashes let in swaths of light through a confessional booth.
Things wrap up maybe a little too neatly for my taste, which is no dig on the excellent script. I think I just like my horror with that extra tinge of darkness. The way this wraps up feels easy, and lacking in significant consequence for the survivors. If one expects some meta deconstruction or game-changing nihilistic slasher thrills, look elsewhere. There’s Someone Inside Your House has a bevy of influences that it wears like proud badges of honor. The constantly rotating mask could be referencing Terror Train or 2018’s Hell Fest. A “secret party” with everyone sharing real secrets, publicly admitting the one thing the killer is using against them, is clever in obvious nods to the big sex party in Cherry Falls, or the anti-curfew party at Stu’s house in 1996’s Scream. The movie reads like a love letter to these iconic movies of yesteryear, paying tribute to them without simply ripping them off for profit. Patrick Brice already has down one found footage classic in his filmography—now he can check off “exciting throwback slasher.” For me, this is one of my favorite horror movies of 2021.
There’s Someone Inside Your House screened at 2021’s Fantastic Fest, and debuts on Netflix just in time for Halloween! Slashing its way to the small screen on Wednesday, October 6th.