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‘There’s Someone Inside Your House’ weds throwback style, 21st century themes

October 11, 2021
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Horror movies have always had an odd relationship with morality. From the earliest adaptions of gothic horror, the genre has always had a touch (or more than a touch) of judgment and victim-blaming, an underlying implication that these people are getting what they deserve.

Never was that inherent idea more apparent than during the slasher craze of the ‘70s and ‘80s, with wave after wave of boozing, promiscuous teenagers falling beneath the various blades wielded by an assortment of maniacs.

But times change. And so do sins.

“There’s Someone Inside Your House” – currently streaming on Netflix – is very much a throwback to that ‘80s slasher vibe. Directed by Patrick Brice from a screenplay by Henry Gayden (adapted from the 2017 Stephanie Perkins novel of the same name), the film is an attempt to evoke those classic horror tropes while updating attitudes for 21st century social mores.

There’s a down-and-dirty viscerality to the film that definitely captures the grimy, bloody energy of its inspirations. And it’s an interesting idea, trying to marry the evolution of teen morality to an old-school approach. It isn’t always fully successful in its execution, but it’s a gruesomely good faith effort at capturing bad faith behaviors even as it collapses a bit beneath the weight of its own logistical inconsistency in the third act.

Makani Young (Sydney Park) has recently moved from Hawaii to the small Nebraska town of Osborne to live with her somnambulistic grandmother (B.J. Harrison) and finish high school; the implication is that she left some bad memories behind. She has a small group of friends – nerdy Darby (Jesse LaTourette), brash Alex (Asjha Cooper), soft-spoken Rodrigo (Diego Josef) and stoner rich kid Zach (Dale Whibley) – as well as a … complicated connection to school outcast Ollie (Theodore Pellerin).

But things are about to get intense at Osborne High.

It starts with one of the school’s star football players being brutally murdered by someone who has also revealed his participation in a brutal (and likely homophobic) hazing incident. What follows is a descent into chaos, with this mysterious killer somehow proving able to access the deepest darkest secrets of Osborne High’s students, revealing the illicit and unsavory actions those students have committed as part of a punishment that ends with each teen’s gruesome and blood-soaked demise.

The thing is, everyone has secrets. And as the body count mounts, Makani and her friends are forced to wonder who might be next on the chopping block. The community’s efforts to keep its young people safe are ineffectual at best and misguided at worst, leaving everyone to wonder if the next text blast will reveal THEIR secret … and if the next death will be their own.

“There’s Someone Inside Your House” will probably remind you of movies you’ve seen before. That’s kind of the point. It’s an obvious attempt to reinvigorate the slasher movie, viewing the standard tropes and cliches through a modern lens. It doesn’t always click – things get a bit overwrought at times, particularly in the frenetic final act – but even when it falls short, it remains interesting.

It helps that there’s an undeniable style to the proceedings, which isn’t much of a surprise considering Brice is at the helm; he’s best known for the underrated “Creep” and “Creep 2.” Brice is clearly a devotee of teen slashers and delights in finding parallels to the simpler sins of yesteryear. The actions evoking punishment here are more complex – homophobia and white supremacy and opioid abuse and bullying attract the attention of our vengeful villain. And rest assured, gorehounds – the punishments themselves are pretty gnarly.

Granted, this is a well-made movie, but like many of its ilk, if you start pulling on the threads, it will all unravel pretty quickly. The narrative is convoluted and the internal logistics don’t make a ton of sense if you think about them for too long (or at all, really). The reality is that while the plot makes an effort to shock and surprise, there’s not a lot that happens that is either shocking or surprising. The reveals – such as they are – essentially just serve to confirm stuff that you’ve already figured out for yourself.

Then again – is that so bad? There’s definitely an appeal to watching an updated version of something familiar, so long as the update is well-executed. And this one is – in multiple senses of the term.

The cast is packed with unfamiliar faces, an assemblage that wouldn’t be out of place in a state university’s diversity campaign. That’s not a condemnation, by the way – the lack of recognition works in the film’s favor. It helps that everyone is pretty good. Park leads the way, but everyone gets a little time to shine and they just about all take advantage. Again, it all reads as kind of generic, but that very genericness is why the movie works the way that it does.

Now, the whole cancel culture slasher shtick is pretty heavy-handed in spots; the filmmakers aren’t afraid to lay it on thick. And that’s a big reason why the wheels come off in the film’s final 25-30 minutes or so. But as I said, even when the wheels are gone, “There’s Someone Inside Your House” rolls inexorably forward.

“There’s Someone Inside Your House” doesn’t always work. The film’s themes are both overt and muddy, and the narrative loses its way in a few spots. That said, it’s an interesting expression of a classic subgenre using current ideas. The cast handles its business and the filmmakers aren’t afraid to get bloody. A flawed, but ultimately enjoyable effort.

[3.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 11 October 2021 09:34

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