There’s obvious business sense behind the cyclical resurgence of the teen slasher, age-old formula cheaply reproduced by barely-paid no-names aimed at an easily devalued and underestimated younger audience. What’s less obvious is why in the age of low-stakes streaming, it’s taken this long for them to return from the dead once again. But after the success of 2017’s Happy Death Day and 2018’s record-breaking Halloween, we’re now in the middle of a full-blooded renaissance.
Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy (acquired from Fox/Disney) was a scary summer surprise, this month sees remakes of I Know What You Did Last Summer and Slumber Party Massacre land, along with David Gordon Green’s sequel, Halloween Kills. Next January, Ghostface stalks his way back to the multiplex in a new vision of Scream. In the middle of that roar, consider There’s Someone Inside Your House, a barely audible squeak, like one of the many 80s sleepover cash-ins that were churned out just in case Freddy or Jason was rented out at the local video store. What makes it hard to enjoy even on that subterranean level is that those behind the film seem to think they’re doing something, that their four-alcopops-in Netflix night-waster is The Slasher Film We Need Right Now – a lofty, back-patting gambit that sinks as the body count rises.
There’s a killer in town and he or she or they seem to be targeting teens with cancellable secrets, of which there are many. There’s the football jock who brutally hazed a gay teammate, the goody-two-shoes Christian girl who guested on a racist podcast, and our heroine Makani (Sydney Park), whose fiery past she hopes will never be revealed. It’s not the only gimmick in the villain’s arsenal, with he or she or they using 3D -printing to wear a mask of the face of whomever they’re killing. Nifty!
There’s a slightly impressive amount of pedigree behind the scenes here, relatively speaking – a source novel from a popular YA author, producing credits for both Stranger Things and Arrival’s Shawn Levy and The Conjuring and Saw’s James Wan, the director of 2014’s crafty indie thriller Creep – but behind the scenes is exactly where that all stays. We’re back to the bottom shelf of Netflix again with this, aesthetically drab with dialogue and performances not far behind.
The script, from Shazam! screenwriter Henry Gayden, does at least start with a certain amount of spunk, targeting the odious upper echelons of high school society, killing a vile bully in an arch cold open (the victim, having been threatened with exposure, offers to pay off the killer via Venmo). The diverse, artfully disheveled outcasts then proceed to bitch about the vapidity of performative grief and suggest that maybe killing off shitheads isn’t the worst thing? But Brice’s graceless, exposition-heavy chatter soon dampens any early spirit and alleged commentary on cancel culture is drowned out by rote cliche, quarter-baked small town business intrigue and knife-edge thin characters whose fates we struggle to care about. The death scenes are eye-openingly gory yet annoyingly rushed and entirely, maddeningly suspense-free. The awkward tonal veering between comedy and horror marks the film out as less Scream and more whimper (the mask designs are also so low-rent that we can never really tell who they are supposed to represent).
Director Patrick Brice is so distracted with trying to be of the moment that he forgets to make his film base-level fun or at times even base-level coherent, its thesis crammed into a laughably on-the-nose killer speech where buzzwords are clumsily crashed together, trying to make a point about something but ultimately saying not a lot about anything. There’s nothing inside this one.