There’s Someone Inside Your House. 2021. Directed by Patrick Brice. Screenplay by Henry Gayden, based on a novel by Stephanie Perkins.
Starring Sydney Park, Sarah Dugdale, Theodore Pellerin, Kayla Heller, Burkely Duffield, Markian Tarasiuk, Emilija Baranac, Andrew Dunbar, Asjha Cooper, & Dale Whibley.
21 Laps Entertainment / Atomic Monster / Netflix
Not Rated / 96 minutes
Horror / Thriller
★★★★1/2 (out of ★★★★★)
The following essay contains SIGNIFICANT SPOILERS!
Turn back, lest ye be forever spoiled.
The slasher sub-genre has been reinvented a number of times over the past few decades, for better or worse. The ‘self-aware slasher’ was popularised after Wes Craven’s Scream changed the sub-genre forever in the 1990s, spawning tons of less than worthy successors to the master’s throne. Although There’s Someone Inside Your House isn’t quite as self-aware in the same clever way Craven used metafiction in Scream, it’s a phenomenal slasher film that comments on the horrors of confronting our own ethics, our willingness to judge others, and the perils of privilege.
Makani Young (Sydney Park) has left behind a difficult past in Hawaii, moving to a tiny town in Nebraska to live with her grandmother and finish high school. As she and the rest of the students at her school head towards graduation, tragic events occur: young people are being stalked, having their darkest secrets are exposed, and getting murdered by a relentless killer. Makani and her friends try to figure out the killer’s identity before they wind up murdered.
But the murderer’s someone nobody ever expected.
One of the major themes in There’s Someone Inside Your House is our willingness to judge and label others without actually knowing them, much of which is centred on the character Ollie (Théodore Pellerin). We watch everyone, including Makani eventually, judge Ollie because his parents died and somehow that makes him disturbed. There are already rumours about him, making it easier for people at school to accuse him of being the killer. Makani knows Ollie better than Alex (Asjha Cooper), who talks shit about him, though turns on him briefly later. Part of why Makani starts accusing Ollie of being the killer is the way the film uses red herrings, pushing the audience to wonder whether he might just be the slasher murdering his way through other kids at school, like when Makani stumbles onto a taser in his glovebox.
Again, everything in the film is about perception.
We see perception used by the killer in how he forces his victims to confront their true selves, in contrast to their public reputation. For instance, the white girl on the student council’s perceived as a normal, if not oblivious do-gooder. Except the killer reveals student council girl to be a right-wing nutjob with a podcast focusing on the genocide of “good white Americans” and other supposedly pressing white issues. This idea of perception and reputation is embodied by the killer’s use of 3D-printed masks, the story’s most genuinely chilling touch. The slasher uses his victims’ faces to confront them with their perceived sins, some bigger than others. Essentially, an image of confronting the self, signifying we dig our graves and seal our fates by the weight of our own actions.
There’s no such thing as cancel culture, it’s actually just the reality of there being consequences for your actions and ethical decision. That doesn’t mean that sometimes, especially online, people get carried away with their own quest for unattainable moral perfection in others. What There’s Something Inside Your House does well is tackle how, occasionally, the 21st-century quest for moral perfection goes much too far. Some sins are forgivable, which occasionally gets lost in today’s Western culture, epitomised in this film’s killer terrorising a small town. Like the one kid who steals his mom’s pills; is that really deserving of death? Even the nastier sins, such as the racist student council girl, don’t merit death. Shunning, yes, but death, no. All the murdering to punish people for their sins, no matter how small, is a comment about going too far to reconcile the truth with a warped sense of justice. Aside from blood, the slasher’s whole mission gives us a hilarious party scene with everyone telling each other their dirtiest secrets in an effort not to be killed; a proper riot.
“Whatever you think you know,
you don’t know shit!”
When the killer’s revealed, and we realise he’s going to try pinning everything on Makani in the end, there’s a disturbing irony to his identity. He’s a privileged, rich white boy acting righteous while murdering people and ultimately planning to blame it on a young woman of colour. The film strongly denounces white privilege without having to spell it out too much. The killer’s plan to use Makani as a scapegoat speaks to the experience of many BIPOC who’ve been made to take responsibility for the mistakes and outright crimes of white people. Makani herself has experienced a life full of being the scapegoat, as we discover the truth about her traumatic past; even though she played a role in an act of violence, she was manipulated and abused by other girls during a hazing ritual, leading to a horrible moment. She was blamed, even if she didn’t get charged. Then she moved to a new place where she was nearly made to take the blame, all over again, all manipulated by privileged whiteness.
The warning signs we choose to look for as a society are, so frequently, not the right ones. We look at the ‘weird’ people, or those in the lower class who we believe ‘have reasons’ to hate, or those with tragic histories and mental health issues, and we mark them as the ones most capable of committing horrific acts. Zach (Dale Whibley) goes without suspicion throughout the film because he’s rich. Yet part of why he should’ve been suspected all along is that wealth, combined with the fact his father’s a Blackwater-style capitalist with a massive weapons collection and a ton of Nazi memorabilia lying around; satirical, really.
Western society in particular sees life upside down, choosing to judge someone like Ollie on rumour and concocted theories because they don’t look or act the way we want them to, or they have a troubled personal history. All the while somebody like Zach is free to do as they please, above suspicion, using their privilege to do horrific things while claiming to hate what the privileged have done to society.
There’s Someone Inside Your House may not be quite as slick with the metafiction as Craven’s Scream, but we do get that vein of self-awareness at times, such as when Alex references I Know What You Did Last Summer during the big party. Still, this isn’t about competing with any other slasher, and there’s no use in comparing this slasher to Scream at length just because it’s ‘self aware’ during a few scenes. Brice’s film forges a fun little horror world of its own with creepy elements like the 3D-printed masks used by the killer, and a wild, violent finale that swings big.
Not everyone will find as much to dig into with There’s Someone Inside Your House, yet there’s so much interesting commentary on social identity v. reality, as well as on how dangerous it can be to judge others. The strongest theme in the film is privilege and the way some wield it as a weapon to bludgeon others with it, rather than actually use it for good. The killer’s convinced himself he’s somehow doing the right thing when he’s only perpetuating new violent cycles of division, burning it all down not because he’s trying to build something new, but simply because he’s able to do it.