On paper, a high school slasher film from director Patrick Brice seems like an intriguing enough idea. The director of indie sex comedy The Overnight and two installments in the Mark Duplass-starring Creep horror series has made his mark as a writer/director driven to bare it all, emotionally speaking, and particularly in the case of Creep, the result crackles with an exquisitely balanced tension playing out in a cat-and-mouse game between two compellingly believable leads. This is old news to horror geeks, but to see Brice potentially bring that same skill with characterization to a Scream-like high school horror setting feels like a setup that could potentially work wonders in cutting through the tropey treacle. Unfortunately, There’s Someone Inside Your House is a considerably more rote endeavor in mass-market horror filmmaking—competently shot and staged, but decidedly familiar, it displays none of the emotional nuance or attention to character detail we’ve associated with Brice in the past.
This is perhaps easily enough explained by the fact that Brice didn’t write this new Netflix horror flick, an adaptation of author Stephanie Perkins’ 2017 novel by the same name. Instead, There’s Someone Inside Your House has a writing credit for Shazam! scribe Henry Gayden, and one wonders if a 41-year-old man writing dialog for 17-year-old feminist high school students should perhaps have been the first indication that the film would ultimately miss its tone just a bit. Regardless, it’s a choice that may veer uncomfortably close to the exact sort of lip-service, performative wokeness that these characters are so disgusted by. Can you really write a story with a bitchy, blonde senior class president being punished for appropriating the language of pop-culture feminism while doing the same thing yourself in attempting to write snarky dialogue for a trans teen? Why do I have a feeling these characters wouldn’t hesitate to cry bullshit on this idea?
Regardless, There’s Someone Inside Your House lines up a pretty stock-standard lineup of potential victims and cloaked psycho killers, led by protagonist Makani (Sydney Park), a new-in-town young woman fleeing a past life filled with regrets and sensationalized tabloid headlines. Park, previously seen by horror fans in a semi-regular role on The Walking Dead, has an appealing presence, but Makani isn’t written to be particularly likeable or clever—she treats her would-be romantic partner badly and tends to survive her brushes with danger through dumb luck and plot armor rather than the kind of courage or resourcefulness that would get us on her side. Her dark past becomes a true liability, however, when a killer specifically targeting those with secrets begins picking off members of the graduating senior class, taunting them with their misdeeds while wearing realistic, 3D-printed masks of their own faces. An opening scene apes Scream succinctly enough without mirroring the actual movements in the style of the still-superior Fear Street Part 1: 1994, with which this film ultimately shares quite a bit of DNA.
Unlike Fear Street, however, there’s no deeper meta level to this narrative, nor do the actual scenes of slashing live up to the surprisingly grisly material displayed in Leigh Janiak’s Netflix trilogy. The arterial splashes and foley are on point for There’s Someone Inside Your House—you have to give it that much—but it frontloads its nastiest material and weakly peters out with increasing reliance on boilerplate stabbings directed at the undercharacterized teens who orbit Makani. There are entirely too many characters here—fodder, perhaps, to keep the potential number of red herrings artificially inflated—which has the unintended consequence of making none of them feel particularly important. Each of Makani’s closest friends is ultimately reduced to a couple lines that define their character, and a fatal flaw/secret for the killer to potentially exploit, often clumsily tied to a hot-button societal issue such as the opioid crisis.
With that said, the film does have its charms, and its 96-minute runtime seems even breezier in practice. There are bursts of good dialogue, a few laugh-out-loud moments of broad high school parody—football players toasting their fallen comrade with “I hope they’re pouring Fireball in paradise, brother”—and one or two slashings that can stand in vaguely the same company as the films that inspired them. Is that enough to justify a casual weeknight watch in the heart of the Halloween season? Sure, as long as you’ve already checked Fear Street off your list.
Director: Patrick Brice
Writer: Henry Gayden
Stars: Sydney Park, Théodore Pellerin, Asjha Cooper, Jesse LaTourette, Diego Josef, Dale Whibley
Release date: Oct. 6, 2021 (Netflix)
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident horror geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more film writing.