A homage-fueled slasher with a social conscience, “There’s Someone Inside Your House” makes a strong effort but doesn’t quite make the grade.
There are no original ideas left.
We all know variations on that old chestnut, and culturally, we have tacitly agreed that this neutral statement is, in fact, negative. While there certainly is room for debate about the veracity of this particular adage, it is also worth questioning; is it truly a bad thing for artists to use existent properties and stories as a jumping-off point for their own creations?
I am going to spoil this one for you and say it is not.
Mike Flanagan has proven time and again that, ironically, “no original idea” can lead to beautiful new art.
Horror particularly flourishes when it honors its forefathers.
There’s Someone Inside Your House chooses its influences wisely.
It is cobbled together from some of the all-time great “teens-in-peril” slashers. And while it makes a valiant effort to insert social commentary, the result is tonally disorienting.
We’re about to get into a lot of plot, so you might want to grab a snack.
There’s Someone Inside of Your House opens with the murder of a jock dude-bro football player. Before he is killed, we see that the murderer has plastered his house with pictures depicting a hate crime, a video of which is then (somehow) sent out to the entire student body and their parents, all at the big football game.
Our core group of kids — kids being a relative term, of course; There’s Someone Inside of Your House honors horror’s oldest tradition, of hiring actors who are visibly in their mid-twenties to play teens — offer some commentary on the nature of the deceased; a popular bully, for whom most mourning is superficial.
Makani Young is at the heart of the rag-tag group of misfits propelling the plot.
She is a semi-recent transfer student with a secret that periodically rears its head in the form of flashbacks and long gazes at social media. Makani had a secret tryst with Ollie, the local troubled youth (you can tell he is troubled because he wears all black and is quiet — so basically the human embodiment of my entire high school career — but by the time the viewer meets them, they are estranged.
More murders occur, each one exposing a sordid secret of the victim.
The local queen bee who uses her more diverse classmates as fodder for her college admissions essay is revealed to have produced and recorded an anonymous alt-right, white supremacists podcast (I promise to return to this; I understand it’s not a sentence you can just leave hanging there).
Rodrigo, one of Makani’s friend-group, is exposed as an abuser of prescription drugs.
The killer always wears a 3-D printed mask of each victim’s face.
Concurrent to the murder elements, There’s Someone Inside of Your House introduces subplots about a local land baron who wants to privatize the police force, and buy out all the good real estate. His son is in Maneki’s group, and in a constant state of rebellion. At one point, he hosts a “tell your secrets” party, claiming that if everyone just admits their secrets, then the killer won’t have any fodder.
Maneki’s grandmother is a sleep-walker who needs to attend a sleep clinic-and it is very difficult to tell what that adds to the story.
I am, of course, stopping short of telling you who the killer is.
Two things are immediately apparent: who the movie wants you to think the killer is and who the killer definitely, actually is.
There’s Someone Inside of Your House culled from some really great movies — Scream is an obvious influence, as is Halloween is as well, and a little bit of House on Sorority Row and I Know What you Did Last Summer (which was a far more satisfying book than film).
One of the complications, however, of borrowing so heavily from pre-existing sources is that you then must work a lot harder to subvert audience expectations.
We know the tricks. We understand that if you are indicating, too heavily, that the killer is one person, that it is definitely another.
There’s Someone Inside of Your House does not find a new way to approach this material; it follows the exact course charted by its predecessors. And you know what, that’s ok. Sometimes you want horror that surprises you, and sometimes you want comfort horror, where you can call all of the beats.
Parts of There’s Someone Inside of Your House are really fun, and that goes a long way, especially during the Halloween season.
The greatest challenge facing the movie is its absolutely insane tonal shifts.
Scream is the heaviest-handed influence. The arch tone is welcome every time it arrives, and there are some genuine, dark laughs. But the film desperately wants to provide social commentary. That’s a great thing; horror films have always been powerful tools for political messaging. Unfortunately, There’s Someone Inside of Your House commits to telling and not showing.
There’s absolutely no subtlety. The characters just loudly state the political message they’re trying to relay.
And then there are the absolutely nonsensical parts.
Let us discuss the complications of the previously-alluded-to-podcast. The conceit may have worked if the character was, say, 40 and we were supposed to believe that this podcast was the poor decision of wasted youth. But this is supposed to be a bright and ambitious 18-year-old girl, who has been raised in the world of social media. She could have made the podcast only, maybe 3 years prior — well within a time frame where she would know that anything you put on the internet will be found.
What would be the point? What purpose could it possibly serve?
This is indicative of There’s Someone Inside of Your House’s approach to social messaging in general.
Its heart is 100 percent in the right place, and it should be commended for wanting to make a slasher film with a conscience of sorts. Unfortunately, its approach is half-assed and muddled.
The cast conducts itself commendably.
They truly rise to difficult material; it is challenging to make characters in horror films both sympathetic and snarky.
Cracking-wise after a fellow student is killed, even if that fellow student is an asshole, feels pretty callous, but the cast makes it work. Sydney Park, as Maneki, and Theodore Pellerin, as Ollie, have the heaviest load; they’re introduced already estranged (with no real reason provided as to what caused the rift). Through sheer charm and will, they manage to make their star-crossed romance pretty endearing.
In the end, the worst accusation you can level at There’s Someone Inside of Your House is that its eyes are bigger than its stomach.
It wants to incorporate all of the elements it likes from movies it clearly loves, and sometimes those components simply don’t gel. It wants to be earnest and a satire and politically reactive, but it’s only got 90 minutes to achieve any of that. It is overly ambitious, but it is loving in its homage. And in these apocalypse days, sometimes there is comfort in knowing how it’s all going to end.