Last week I asked for a review copy of "No Time to Die" and was informed in maybe 30 seconds the answer was no. They just weren't sending them out for some reason. Fortunately, Netflix was kind enough to come to the rescue, providing a review copy of "There's Someone Inside Your House."
If you listen to me on the radio each week on KUAF, you know I have one rule when it comes to films I review: No scary stuff. So why did I seek out this slasher movie? If I'm being brutally honest, most of this week's releases are horror films, aside from the latest 007 flick.
Amazon is dropping two more entries in the "Welcome to the Blumhouse" horror anthology, and "Mass," I was told, wouldn't open in Arkansas for a couple more weeks.
So I turned on all the lights in my apartment, pulled up my stuffed wolf, Ruad, on the couch to protect me, and made sure I had my phone nearby in case the serial killer from the movie I was going to review popped out of the television. And to my surprise, "There's Someone Inside Your House" didn't end up being all that scary.
In fact, I actually ended up enjoying the film, as nonsensical and cliche as it got. When I turned off my Xbox and got up from the couch, my first thought was, "That was entertaining enough." It's a perfectly timed, by-the-numbers spooky season movie and probably even more fun to watch with friends.
FITTING AS A THRILLER
If this film had come out in March or July, I'm convinced it wouldn't have been as entertaining. But during October when folks are busting out all their favorites like, "Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Friday the 13th"? It matches the vibe pretty darn well. Netflix knew what it was doing, sinking a few million into the rights for this movie.
"There's Someone Inside Your House" follows a transfer student from Hawaii named Makani Young (Sydney Park) who has moved to rural Nebraska during her final year of high school to escape her dark secret back home on the islands. She lives with her sleepwalking grandmother in a small town where everybody knows everyone else.
The film opens with a stereotypical jock coming home to an empty house while talking on the phone with a buddy about not wanting to sleep with a girl who likes him. He describes her as someone he wouldn't have sex with for millions of dollars and generally reveals himself as a pig so the audience won't feel terrible about watching him die first.
One thing I noticed immediately was good camera work. The movie opens with a wide view on a farm house, and it's a pretty shot. The rest of the film is filled with the slow pans and zooms fitting of a slasher movie. Jeff Cutter did a great job on the cinematography.
THE FIRST VICTIM
As the opening continues, the jock wakes up from a nap to find pictures posted all over the house of a bloodied hazing victim he beat up. He's able to call 911 pretty effortlessly on a landline but hangs up once he notices the photos, letting viewers know this is one of those horror movies filled with characters who make dumb mistakes.
The jock follows the photos to his parents' closet with a golf club ready for self defense. It appears he'd been keeping this secret, and somehow the murderer found out. As he walks into a closet, lured by the noise of his cellphone, the killer slashes the tendons in his heels and sends blood everywhere. Each of the deaths in this movie is filled with gore, and it lives up to the title of a slasher movie, despite having a relatively low body count by the end.
At last we're shown that the killer is wearing a 3D printed mask of the victim's face, which I thought was a pretty neat detail. It may not be an iconic hockey mask, Ghostface mask, or Michael Myers mask, but the fact that it's 3D printed to look like the victim is kind of a modern take on that trend.
After the jock is murdered, everyone else (at the football game the jock was supposed to play in) is simultaneously sent a text message with photos of the hazing victim, revealing the football player's deep dark secret. And that sets the trend for the rest of the film as a serial killer finds people with dark secrets and murders them while exposing their sins.
WANNABE BREAKFAST CLUB
At the local high school, "TSIYH" introduces everyone to a local gang of misfits, friends of Makani. The gang includes Makani's best friend Alex (Asjha Cooper), Alex's secret crush Rodrigo (Diego Josef), an aspiring astronomer Darby (Jesse LaTourette), and a wealthy burnout Zach (Dale Whibley).
Together they try to be some wannabe Breakfast Club, but they never come close to reaching that height. What I will say, though, is I did enjoy watching this group try to survive a serial killer. Makani is a charming, yet moody character, and I'm happy to see a Black actor like Park take the lead in this movie.
But my favorite character was Darby, a transgender student who dreams of working for NASA and hates being used as a cheap source of woke currency by the school's student president (easily the most cringey scene in the movie). They're a fun character in the few scenes they get, and I'm happy "TSIYH" kept the LGBTQ+ characters from the 2017 novel it's based on.
The film is filled with your standard high school stock characters, the student president queen bee, football jocks, the stoners, the burnouts, the social rejects. This movie puts forth little effort in escaping the usual cliches and stereotypes of horror movies that came before it, like killing off a character once they lose their virginity or setting up an obvious murder suspect to try to lead the audience on.
I can almost respect that the film knew what it had to work with and was unapologetic about what it was offering. If you purchase a can of Spam, you cannot be upset when you find Spam inside.
Even accepting that the movie is serving up a standard baloney sandwich with no frills, there are a lot of nonsensical things in this movie. How does the killer find all the evidence they use to shock their victims right before murdering and exposing them? How does the killer send texts simultaneously to everyone in town? Why did the killer go after people with mostly vile secrets, like racism, Naziism, and hazing but also kill someone solely for secretly using painkillers? Why do people who are about to be murdered and have 911 on the line simply hang up the phone?
The movie also has a side plot about this Nebraska town voting to dissolve its police department and replace it with private security. I'm not sure a town can legally do that. But the film has nonsensical lines like, "Your dad's lawyer just invoked your constitutional rights, so you're free to go." More than once I found myself yelling at the television, "What does that even mean?!"
But the movie also has humorous moments like when Rodrigo and Alex duck into a pantry to have sex, and there's a mysterious figure seen through the glass, knocking on the door. Alex calls out, "What do you want?!" And the shadow says, "Chips?" So she groans, opens the door and tosses out a bag of chips really quickly. The shadow, who turns out to just be a hungry party guest, complains, "Salt and vinegar?" And Alex tells them in no uncertain terms to go away.
I don't understand why all these homes still have landlines in 2021 when cellphones are shown to work perfectly across the town. And I rolled my eyes at the usual horror movie stupidity, like hiding in a closet while the killer walks by the door slowly, only to stab through it immediately after.
Yet the climax involves the killer setting a corn maze on fire with dozens of people inside. It's an epic visual for the final showdown between Makani and the killer. Unfortunately, the person I guessed was the killer about halfway through the movie turned out to be wrong. And while I didn't see the final choice coming, I'm not sure it ends up making much sense. The killer's motivation is weak, and the movie's ultimate message is lost with a little incoherent rambling during the climax.
Other horror films have done this story better. "TSIYH" is like a Great Value version of "Scream." There's also hints of "Stranger Things," probably because some of the producers from that series were involved with this project.
When I toss everything on the scale, the nonsensical moments and standard horror cliches on one side and the genuinely funny moments and enjoyable characters on the other, this film ends up weighing out to just entertaining enough.
"There's Someone Inside Your House" is available on Netflix.