Conventional wisdom suggests the slasher genre has had its heyday, technically twice (once in the eighties and again in the late nineties/early 2000s), and is done, which is why we’re getting more Halloween and Scream sequels rather than anything new. Pay close attention, however, and you’ll find great slashers being released every year, from the Happy Death Day series to Tragedy Girls. Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy was such a lame, cliché-ridden bore that the prospect of another slasher movie from the streaming service filled us with dread for all the wrong reasons. How wonderful, then, that There’s Someone Inside Your House proved to be such a dark little delight. Maybe certain people have grown tired of the sub-genre, so this little gem passed them by, but for everyone else, why the hell aren’t we talking about this movie?
Adapted from the novel of the same name by Stephanie Perkins, There’s Someone Inside Your House follows a group of high school misfits in sleepy Nowheresville, USA (which is demonstrably Clearly, Canada) whose schoolmates are being picked off one by one by a masked killer. The twist is the disguise in question features each victim’s face, screen-printed onto a high-quality latex mask which, as the killer hilariously acknowledges, takes a long time to do. Each person being picked off has a damning secret they don’t want exposed, starting with a star athlete who led the entire football team in the hideous, and bloody, hazing of a gay teammate. He’s killed in the film’s thrilling opening moments, as darkness falls and his cellphone is replaced with an egg timer, the house filled with incriminating photos. This first kill is bloody, shocking, and vicious, achieved with practical effects, and confidently setting the tone for what’s to come. Get in losers, we’re going killing.
Our heroine is Makani (a compelling, and utterly believable Sydney Park), a newcomer to town whose own secret is teased throughout the movie — though her friends are just as culpable, from the rich kid fighting to destroy his cruel father’s legacy to the pill-popper with his head in the clouds. These teens run the gamut for diversity too, from an opinionated Black woman to her secret Latino crush, the trans kid who’s obsessed with space, and even Makani herself, who’s also mixed race. Filmmakers, particularly in the indie scene, have been making major strides lately to diversify both behind and in front of the camera, and with the success of the likes of Get Out and the new Candyman movie, it shouldn’t be too surprising to see a young Black woman in the Final Girl role. And yet, it’s still a hugely welcome move, worthy of marking out and celebrating.
Makani doesn’t just have a closely guarded secret from her past she’s trying to conceal, however; the quiet, unassuming teenager is also cultivating a relationship on the DL with the town weirdo, Ollie (Théodore Pellerin). The two actors have a sparky chemistry together from the very first moment they lock eyes onscreen, and their fiery, complicated romance provides more layers to the story while also situating it in the town, where Ollie’s brother happens to work in law enforcement. The whodunnit is strong, even though most slasher fans will have worked out who the killer is early on thanks to one particularly noteworthy item of clothing, but even knowing who’s committing the murders doesn’t rob There’s Someone Inside Your House of any of its charm or intrigue.
Henry Gayden’s screenplay is sharp but not quippy or self-referential, the characters carefully drawn as real, three-dimensional people rather than walking clichés or political talking points in human form. They fight, they shag, and they run for their lives (Gayden scripted the fun Shazam! so he’s got previous with this kind of character setup). Plenty of modern slashers are too concerned with what’s come before to truly pave the way forward, which was one of my biggest issues with the Fear Street trilogy. There’s Someone Inside Your House has the advantage of being adapted from a novel and directed by Patrick Brice, whose Creep and follow-up Creep 2, both of which are also available to watch on Netflix, are a couple of the wildest, riskiest, and most effective modern horror movies out there. They’re criminally underrated too, so hopefully this film brings more attention to them.
Striking a balance between presenting characters we actually care about, a town we fully believe in, and kills that chill the blood, is no small feat but There’s Someone Inside Your House does it all with aplomb, and frequently at the same time. The killer’s M.O. typically involves a knife similar to the one Ghostface brandishes, but the ways in which he uses it are devilishly inventive. A church-set stalk-and-slash is brilliantly done, impossible to predict, and has a stomach-churning white supremacist angle to boot. Even if the victim in question hadn’t released a hideously racist podcast, earlier in the movie she makes a horrifying speech claiming the trans student’s very personal battle as her own, marking her out as cluelessly ignorant and worthy of a bloody send-off in one fell swoop. Every high school character in the movie feels like someone you’d come across in real life, contradictions and public-facing persona and all.
It’s hugely impressive that the film so effortlessly invokes important talking points without ever feeling preachy, but as a straight-up slasher it’s also incredibly effective. DOP Jeff Cutter gives the proceedings a warm glow reminiscent of the kind of middle America that no longer really exists. Rather than making the film feel fake, however, it establishes the setting as somewhat fantastical and dream-like, which works brilliantly during scenes where Makani’s grandmother is sleepwalking, or when Ollie takes her to watch a massive cornfield sway in the wind. Brice consistently evokes the feeling of being a confused, angry, overwhelmed, and majorly horny teenager with clever setups that feel both familiar and out of left field – the inevitable party takes place, but he skips the school dance, for instance. It’s a remarkable achievement, notable for how much care when into making something that, on its face, is a silly little slasher feel so damn important.
Simply put, if There’s Someone Inside Your House signals the future of slashers, we should all be fully onboard.