THERE'S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE. Is a slasher movie ever just a slasher movie? Probably not. Go back and watch a few of the genre's prototypes from the '70s and '80s, and you'll find — more easily with the distance afforded by time — some recurring themes and popular mores fairly leaping from their stories and conventions. In her book Men, Women and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, Carol J. Clover names "the final girl," the scrappy, tomboyish survivor who always escapes the gauntlet, even as everyone else is cut down. Clover points out the ways in which the archetype subverts and eventually upholds gender rules — all of which seems impossible to miss now but back then it was like that saying about fish not seeing the water they swim in.
Netflix's There's Someone Inside Your House hews closer to some genre conventions than others, especially in terms of the final girl, but updates its themes to fit the times. Maybe not the pandemic, but there's anxiety over the outing of secrets that echoes the current hysteria over "cancel culture," and there's some commentary on privilege. The story also revolves around characters — Black, mixed-race, non-binary, Latino and gay — who'd never have been considered when I was watching slashers at basement sleepovers. If nothing else, it's surely a sign of the direction of mass-market entertainment. It's clumsy in places and tries too hard with its ending, and a teen murder spree is no place for meaningful development of more than one or two characters. Truly, if you want a master class in updating the genre with a broader range of characters, watch Netflix's Fear Street trilogy. But it's heartening that we can have something like There's Someone, a just OK movie with a diverse cast — a somewhat goofy slasher we'll all probably forget when spooky season ends.
There's Someone Inside Your House opens, fittingly enough, with a Nebraska high school football player killed in his home, sliced up by an intruder wearing a mask of his face in a closet plastered with photos of him beating a teammate bloody in what appears to be hazing ritual. The intruder then posthumously outs him for his misdeed, texting those same photos of the beating to the whole town at the big game. Meanwhile, hazing victim Caleb (Burkely Duffield), the one gay player on the team, is busy scoring a touchdown before a distracted crowd. Ostracized by his teammates, Caleb finds a literal seat at the table with the movie's central clique: recently transferred Makani (Sydney Park), NASA hopeful Darby (Jesse LaTourette), disaffected rich kid Zach (Dale Whibley), sharp-tongued Alex (Asjha Cooper) and Rodrigo (Diego Josef), who pines for her. Soon enough, it's apparent the killer on the loose is bumping off people with secrets and, what, 3D printing these masks? Makani may be holding more secrets than her friends, and little by little her relationship with the sheriff's outcast brother Ollie (Théodore Pellerin) and the awful business that made her leave her home in Hawaii for Nebraska.
If you came for a helping of classic teen slasher tropes, the goods are here. The murders, largely committed with a long knife, spew plenty of blood: Achilles tendons are cut, throats are opened and the camera lingers just long enough so you don't miss it. The killer dutifully slow walks after frantic victims, sending a blade blindly through wood and metal barriers while their prey dodge and shriek inside. And while it's not built as a mystery with a trail of clues, the speculation as to who the stabby one is shifts here and there to keep us interested. Still, the setup about secrets goes to hell in the third act and the showiness gives way to a pointless kill or two.
The movie, directed by Patrick Brice (Creep, 2014) draws as much from Heathers or Mean Girls in its humor as it does from Wes Craven in its gore, but veers toward Breakfast Club now and again in its ham-fistedness. It works so hard in the end to be kind and offer hope that the worst of us isn't all of us. That it's jarringly kind to the people who are supposed to be expendable might be a sign of the times, too. TVMA. 96M. NETFLIX.
Jennifer Fumiko Cahill (she/her) is the arts and features editor at the Journal. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill.
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For showtimes call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre 822-3456.