The slasher never left, of that there’s no doubt, but the recent resurgence leans on the ’90s slasher giants in the way those leaned on their ’80s predecessors. Next up to populate our screens with the sound of knives and the splatter of blood is Netflix’s newest, There’s Someone Inside Your House, a slasher based on Stephanie Perkins’ YA novel by the same name that promises to explore the Gen Z experience.
Makani (Sydney Park) is doing her best to fit in. She’s moved to a small town with her grandmother for her senior year of high school and is just trying to push through to graduation without being noticed. Makani has a secret she’d prefer others not know, a secret much worse than her crush on the school’s resident skinny weird guy. But secrets aren’t staying kept in this sleepy Nebraska town.
At the behest of a mysterious killer, secrets are being exposed in ways that derail—and, uh, kill—the members of the graduating class. Dressed up in the faces of their victims, an assailant is setting up elaborate exposés before brandishing a knife. After a football player is killed and exposed for participating in a ruthless hazing ritual, Makani’s classmates host a “secret party” purporting to expose themselves before the killer does it for them. But Makani is unwilling to share her sordid past with her new chums and must fight to wear her mask longer than the killer does.
Director Patrick Brice is most often associated with his bizarre and uncomfortable found-footage films, Creep and Creep 2. Though this feature is nestled alongside those in the horror canon, they’re a very different type of project. Where the Creep series tried something completely new with the found-footage movie, adding some spins to create something unique, There’s Someone Inside Your House adds nothing new but some updated slang. Trying to distinguish itself from Scream and the slashers that continue to pay homage to it, There’s Someone Inside Your House can barely resist its familiar cold open or giving the lead the address “1412” Prescott Lane (an apparent reference to Scream’s Sidney Prescott).
The top of There’s Someone Inside Your House follows the familiar beats of a teen slasher, updating the themes enough to suit the next generation. There’s the cold open kill that’s equally terrifying as it is creative, followed by clunky and comedic shots of confused teens trying to manage their grief. There’s a refreshing absence of meta-jokes, replaced instead by modern gags that prey on performative activism and the perils of teen angst. It’d be snide to call it “shallow” that the story for 2021 teens mentions privilege, race, gender, and defunding the police, because the mere use of those buzzwords isn’t what makes these themes ring hollow. They’re hollow in this movie because they’re used to propel a story that never really takes off.
Musings about race, oppression, and privilege are smattered throughout character monologues in ways that add up to nothing deeper than a scene where they smoke weed out of a Nazi weapon turned into a bong. That moment, in fact, felt a lot less like a “screw you” to the Nazis and a lot more like the time TikTok teens delivered ill-advised holocaust monologues. You might forgive these beats as satirizing the teenage experience with political activism, but there’s nothing to support that there’s depth to it, and it would be a mean-spirited indictment of teens either way. As a scary movie, it’s tired, and as a satire, it’s lazy.
And that’s all there is to say about the back half of this would-be watchable slasher; it’s lazy. Its flashy climax and twists reach toward being a sensational kill compilation, but its predictable and flimsy twists and stabs make it fall closer to movies like Valentine and the remake of Sorority Row without the knowing camp.
For all its narrative pitfalls, there are a few glowing moments, like some fun uses of new technology and the costuming. Audiences have jumped at the sound of a landline ringing more times than we can count, from Scream through Joy Ride, and There’s Someone Inside Your House has twisted that into the cell phone notification, beyond what was done in movies like One Missed Call. In a culture where being exposed for Bad Tweets is grounds for termination, a video or a podcast from your past blowing up your Twitter notifications is enough to strike fear into many. What’s unfortunate is how quickly this gag is abandoned in favor of a boring victim-complex-monologue, but what are you gonna do?
The mask design is fun, reminiscent of the Owen Davian 3D printed mask scene that explains the lifelike recreations used by the IMF in Mission: Impossible 3. For each kill, the killer 3D designs and prints a mask of the victim, forcing them to stare at themselves before they die. It’s a natural next evolution in the horror mask hall-of-fame, where the best we’ve had since Ghostface was a literal baby with buck teeth.
Netflix has brought some stellar horror features for differing age groups, from Nightbooks for the younger crowd, Fear Street for the teens, and too many to count for the olds among us. This newest attempt at appealing to the blossoming generation of slasher fans wears the mask of a fresh slasher, but underneath it all is a boring collection of kill scenes that uses Gen Z buzzwords for clout.
There’s Someone Inside Your House is streaming on Netflix starting on October 6, 2021.
Header Image Source: David Bukach/Netflix