It’s a mistake to think that all slasher films are alike as the only real constant is a premise that sees someone killing people with weapons and methods that almost never include guns. Knives, scythes, axes, chainsaws… all at play. Beyond that, though, slashers can mix things up regarding the victims, the motives, and the overall tone. The 90s were home to a specific breed of slasher with films like Scream (1996), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), and Urban Legend (1998) featuring intended targets who are both youthful and overly aware and themes that tease social commentary and a newfound morality. There’s Someone Inside Your House is a brand new release, but it finds its inspiration in those past gems while still delivering plenty of bloody fun of its own.
Makani (Sydney Park) is a newcomer to a small, quiet, Midwestern town, but while she hoped to leave the past behind her, the future isn’t looking to oblige. She’s settled in with the help of new friends, each perceived outcasts in one way or another, but the gentle crackling of corn husks and civic pride that surrounds them is shattered when the high school’s star football player is brutally murdered. A video is sent to the entire town revealing the teen’s role in a cruel hazing of a gay player, and it soon becomes clear that someone is intent on punishing the sins that sit beneath the surface of this otherwise perfect community.
Another “good” teenager is killed, a valedictorian whose public wokeness is revealed to be add odds with her private truths involving white supremacy, and suddenly everyone’s a suspect. Makani and her friends seek to survive, if not solve, the slaughter, and the key seems to be ensuring they have no dark and dirty secrets hiding in the shadows. Speaking of Makani’s past…
Director Patrick Brice shows he’s no one-trick pony when it comes to horror as he chases the found footage terrors of Creep (2014) and the darkly awkward tension of The Overnight (2015) with a far more traditional slice of genre fun in There’s Someone Inside Your House. Achilles tendons are graphically sliced in the opening minutes, and later kills see even more elaborate bloodshed, but Brice and writer Henry Gayden (adapting Stephanie Perkins‘ YA horror novel) ensure there’s more to enjoy here than just the gore and grue.
Makani and her friends are a charismatic bunch whose fates we come to care about. Sure, there’s something Breakfast Club-ish in their makeup — Rodrigo (Diego Josef) is a pill-popper, Darby (Jesse LaTourette) is non-binary, Zach (Dale Whibley) is a rich kid, Alex (Asjha Cooper) is an eternal grump, and Caleb (Burkely Duffield) is a gay jock — but their friendship feels sincere and their banter entertains. Oh, and let’s not forget the class weirdo, Ollie (Théodore Pellerin), who’s both suspect number one and the boy Makani had a Grease-inspired summer fling with that ended when the school year began. It’s not long before their own little bubble is penetrated by murder, and as the town’s annual corn celebration arrives it’s a party laced with fear.
The clear theme at play is no revelation — surprise, small towns and “good” people often hide big secrets and evil truths — but it’s used to great effect here. (Fans should check out Adam Cesare’s novel Clown in a Cornfield for more corn and blood-filled shenanigans in a small, rural town.) There’s Someone Inside Your House is particularly effective when it comes to red herrings and suspects as the script does good work pointing an accusatory finger at numerous characters. Your own guesses will most likely change more than once even if one maybe stands out a bit too clearly early on. Still, the killer’s (or killers’, this is a Scream riff after all) identity isn’t the singular focus as Brice and friends are here to entertain horror fans through to the end credits.
Happily, even if you ping the killer before the reveal, There’s Someone Inside Your House delivers the goods. (Strangely, only one person is killed by someone inside their house…) Like Netflix’s Fear Street: 1994 from this past summer, it pairs suspense and gore with social observations and style. It might not reach that film’s highs, but at a tight ninety-six-minutes the film moves like a beast once the gears are greased with blood. Brice and cinematographer Jeff Cutter capture both the beauty and frayed edges of small town America (despite having filmed in Canada) and gleefully spill its innards via well-crafted set-pieces and locales.
The script does lose its way slightly regarding the killer’s appearance — the murderer wears a mask of their victim’s face, and while it creates a cool and unique visual, it’s not woven into the themes of guilt all that well. Yes yes, their own past actions are responsible for their own current fate, but there’s more to be said there that the film never tries to explore. Similarly, while the film’s ending satisfies it lands with something of a clumsy abruptness. It doesn’t hurt the movie, but it prevents things from ending on a real high.
There’s Someone Inside Your House may not bring anything new to the bloody table here, but as part of a recent (and welcome) slasher renaissance it delivers an entertaining time. Memorable kills, a fun and energetic sense of style, a smart enough script, and likable characters go a long way, and here’s hoping that 90s inspiration continues with a college-set sequel… bring on There’s Still Someone Inside Your Sorority House!