Being anything but white and straight in any kind of slasher film has usually meant either one of two things, 1) you’re guaranteed deader than dead meat if you’re not of the caucasian persuasion and 2) being from the queer or trans community could also mean there’s a good shout that you’re also the killer who comes complete with some weird psycho-sexual motive. The second issue in particular gas been a constant gripe for the LGBTQ+ community and accusations have been leveled at such diverse films as Dressed To Kill, Silence Of The Lambs, Sleepaway Camp and dozens of Italian giallo movies for keeping this somewhat regressive trait alive.
However, with the rise of the continued works of the rising queer content of Don Mancini’s Chucky series, not to mention Netflix’s cracking Fear Street trilogy and Christopher Landon’s magnificent Freaky, mainstream horror seems to be finally refreshing the balance. Latest out the gate is Netflix’s rather obviously titled, There’s Someone Inside Your House – can this diversity-minded, stab-happy killer-thriller keep the ball rolling?
Makani Young has been in town for the better part of a year after being permanently moved to live with her grandmother after a traumatic event forced her to move from her home town. Since then she’s managed to settle down nicely and has even got herself a group of loyal friends, even though the rest of the school consider them a gang of misfits, but opinions change when a popular jock is sliced to ribbons by a masked killer who seems to know about a secret hazing of a gay team member that went on to become a fully blown hate crime. Next up, a two faced, future valedictorian is filleted after the killer reveals that this so-called little miss perfect once posted an incredibly racist podcast and it soon becomes apparent that whoever’s this murderer is, they have a sizable mad-on for the deep, dark secrets hidden among the students of this school.
This, of course, makes Makani fairly worried considering she has somewhat of a shady past herself, but her friends rally round her to protect her, even though they don’t think that rekindling her romance with town teen recluse Oscar, is the best idea she could have right now. However, as the bodycount rises the town still thinks it’s the perfect time to have a big celebration (open up a cornfield maze with a serial killer running around – what could go wrong?) and the board is set for this mystery slasher to up their murder quota exponentially.
Can Makani and her friends manage to overcome the stigma of a terrible accident from her past in order to fuck over the murderer in her present before more kids end up sliced into bloody chunks?
Straight off the bat, I’m going to lay down some disclaimers just to make sure we all know where we’re coming from and the first point I’m going to make is that in this day and age – when virtually every story and genre has been played out – to tell a story from the point of view from characters who come from different backgrounds is a sure fire way to keep things fresh and new. From the aforementioned gender flipping of Freaky to black filmmakers reclaiming and re-energizing the Candyman franchise, employing different voices in genre cinema is key to helping up understand one another during these muddled times we live in.
However, just because you’ve made a film that goes out of it’s way to nullify a lot of the regressive habits of the slasher movie, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to stick to the other aspects that make that particular sub-genre tick. Thus we arrive at the main problem with There’s Someone Inside Your House; the whole point of a whodunit slasher movie is that anyone could be the killer and that no one is safe, but if you put a protective bubble around your diverse main group primarily because they’re diverse, then a large amount of tension immediately slips away. At no point did I feel scared for transgender, NASA fan Darby, nor did I worry for the safety of straight talking, black best friend Alexandra either and if you’ve eliminated your most likable characters from danger, where exactly does the drama come from?
Aside from this, despite being nicely slick and featuring some nasty deaths (Lucio Fulci-esque knife through the mouth FTW), There’s Someone Inside Your House simply riffs way too much on 90’s stalk and slash epics Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer to feel even remotely original which is a massive disappointment considering the film was directed by Patrick Kack-Bryce who gave up the defiantly off-beat, found footage psycho thrillers Creep and Creep 2. Even the things that are different just don’t seem to work as well as they should, with the killer’s habit of wearing 3D printed masks of the people he’s killing simply not being anywhere near as creepy as it should be and plus it makes it incredibly obvious who the killer is going to be.
It’s a legitimate shame, because despite its unwieldy title (especially considering that only one of the killings actually happens inside a house), the movie’s heart really is in the right place, even if it loses focus at numerous points and is utterly illogical in others – when you find out who the killer actually is, you realise there’s absolutely no way they could have had the pin point laser focus of a Christopher Nolan Batman villain to pull off a prank phone call, let alone orchestrate the ornately complicated set-ups required to take down their hypocritical victims with such lethal efficiency.
That’s not to say TSIYH is bad, it’s just that in its noble quest for equality, it gets tangled up in the act of trying too hard by making a slasher movie that breaks conventions when Leigh Janiak’s Fear Street Trilogy has already proved that the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive in order to give us a rousing bloodbath that also doesn’t have to be straight and white.
Horror movies have always been the go-to genre to bust taboos and flip conventions, but by breaking some rules, There’s Someone Inside Your House only manages to construct others that not only dilutes the scares but even makes it a cakewalk to guess the killer’s identity.
Likable characters and a muddled slasher plot collide to make a movie that, despite its honorable aims, ends up stabbing itself in the foot by making some of its cast immune from the horror.