Fantastic Fest: There’s Someone Inside Your House (2021)
Directed By: Patrick Brice
Starring; Sydney Park, Théodore Pellerin, Asjha Cooper, Dale Whibley, Jesse LaTourette, Diego Josef, Burkely Duffield, Sarah Dugdale, William MacDonald, Andrew Dunbar, Markian Tarasiuk
Plot Summary: Makani Young has moved from Hawaii to quiet, small-town Nebraska to live with her grandmother and finish high school, but as the countdown to graduation begins, her classmates are stalked by a killer intent on exposing their darkest secrets to the entire town, terrorizing victims while wearing a life-like mask of their own face. With a mysterious past of her own, Makani and her friends must discover the killer’s identity before they become victims themselves. THERE’S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE is based on Stephanie Perkins’ New York Times best-selling novel of the same name and written for the screen by Henry Gayden (Shazam!), directed by Patrick Brice (Creep) and produced by James Wan’s Atomic Monster (The Conjuring) and Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps (Stranger Things).
There’s Someone in Your House (2021) has a fantastic cold opener and credit sequence. I am sad to say that the rest of the movie doesn’t live up to it, though it’s by no means a bad film. I have to give director Patrick Brice credit for finding ways of taking pulpy genre tropes and finding ways to mix things up, if not outright subvert them. It’s no spoiler since its mentioned in the plot summary, but Brice does this really interesting thing in having the killer 3D print masks of his victims. So, ultimately you have to face this lifeless facsimile of yourself before you die. This is a very cool way to take the ‘done-to-death’ masked killer motif and not only use it in a fresh way but also echo a big theme in this movie: tech. This of course leads to the bigger theme of the film which is social media and how seemingly nothing is secret in the digital age.
This movie certainly feels like it wants to be the new Scream (1996), only this time updated. It was nice to see that even with a new coat of paint, the movie retains the aforementioned films dark humor, not to mention fully embracing the slashers roots in the classic whodunits of literate and more broadly the Giallo in Italy. The movie has enough going on to be engaging and never dull, though the narrative is just so-so. First, I will give credit to Brice and Shazam (2019) screenwriter Henry Gayden for aiming for something smarter and more challenging than a typical slasher. It’s also refreshing to see LGBTQIA characters in a horror movie that aren’t used as token stereotypes. Though, I will say these characters never get romantic partners, nor do they do anything but serve as the “best friend” to our lead. So, it’s a step forward but also not as progressive as it likes to think it is.
This is a perfect segue into this movie’s biggest issue which is a screenplay that feels like it is trying to say something about things such as: woke culture, and how social media can bring people together but also be horrifying and isolating. This is grounds for some really fascinating metatext but sadly, the filmmakers never dive into these themes deep enough to be effective or thought provoking. This could be overlooked but it never quite gets the mix of serious horror whilst also embracing the fun aspects of the horror genre. Partly why something like Scream works so well is because Craven and Williamson balanced the serious and the darkly sardonic on a razors edge.
This does not. Worst of all, its mystery isn’t nearly as engaging as it could have been. I think this is compounded by the fact that the pacing is wonky with some needless misdirection and more annoyingly a shoe-horned hetero-romance that goes nowhere and only serves to shift focus away from the main story. Not to mention the eye-twitchingly lame, “we all wear mask” lines spouted by the killer in the finale. Speaking of, the killer’s motivation is so incredibly dumb. The screenwriter even tries to put a lampshade on it, but it doesn’t make it better. In fact, it just highlights it.
It’s frustrating because this movie showed promise, but its underdeveloped script never lets it rise above its incredible opening scene. It just languished in that space of bad but not over-the-top or sincere enough to comfortably slide into the realm of so-bad-its-enjoyable. This is where something like Hellfest (2019) is infinitely better. Patrick Brice is an interesting figure in the genre. His film Creep (2014) is a highly interesting outing which has amassed a loyal and diehard fanbase. This is why you will no doubt read a flood of “this is the greatest horror movie ever” on Twitter by fellow fans and critics. Again, I don’t think this movie is awful. It’s clearly well directed with nicely handled photography and editing. Sadly, it feels ashamed of its slasher trappings but also tries to smooth over the cracks with awkward dark humor that doesn’t mesh well. It’s progressive in having LGBTQIA characters but also never is bold enough to do anything with them. The end result is a serviceable horror outing that is ultimately very bland, especially from the director of Creep.
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Big film nerd and TCM Obsessed. Author of The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema from Schiffer Publishing. Resume includes: AMC’s The Bite, Scream Magazine etc. Love all kinds of movies and television and have interviewed a wide range of actors, writers, producers and directors. I currently am a regular co-host on the podcast The Humanoids from the Deep Dive and have a second book in the works from Bear Manor.