Whew, it feels like it’s been way too long since I reviewed a film!
Folks, I’m right there with you: Hollywood rarely ever nails the casting and characterization around alleged high school kids. Such is the case with the horror teen slasher film, 2021’s There’s Someone Inside Your House. The kids seem like seniors in college rather than seniors in high school. And yup, Sydney Park (who plays the lead character of Makani Young) and Théodore Pellerin (who plays the lead character of Ollie and Young’s love interest) are 23 and 24, respectively.
I just wanted to get that out of the way even before I get to the premise because that’s the obvious, if still correct, criticism of any purported high school-based film.
So, the film follows a high school in Nebraska, where students are being killed by someone wearing a mask made to look like the faces of each victim and in so killing them, the killer reveals to the victim and to the wider community the respective secrets each victim has been concealing. I did appreciate that later on, the killer whined about how much work it was to make those masks and set-up everything because that’s what I was thinking, too!
And we already know from occasional flashbacks that Makani is harboring some sort of secret involving a bonfire. Ollie is set up as the red herring obvious pick for killer being Makani’s secret boyfriend she didn’t suspect.
The first victim was a football player who brutally hazed another kid. The second victim was secretly a white nationalist (although, how secret was it really? She did a podcast). Those first two made sense as damning secrets. The third victim though was a kid who was sad and lonely and taking his mom’s pills. And the fourth would-be victim was Makani, who we learn was also hazed and in the course of her hazing, accidentally shoved a friend (also being hazed) into a bonfire. The last two are secrets, but they didn’t seem on the level of the first two.
In this small town, Zachariah Sandford’s (played by Dale Whibley) tyrannical father, Skipper Sanford (played by William MacDonald), has bought everyone’s property, including the sheriff’s even. So, everyone in town hates him and that includes his own son. All of the killing by Zachariah as it turns out, is essentially a way to “mask” (ha-ha) that Zachariah hates his dad and wants to kill him.
There’s some social commentary Zachariah throws in there about wanting to reveal what everyone keeps behind their own respective “masks” and then there’s some social commentary plunged into Zachariah’s heart by Makani in the way of a knife that him playing the victim even though he’s a privileged kid is BS; he’s not a victim. The latter is true, but I’m not sure they stuck the landing on all of that messaging.
That all said, I thought this was really fun and a semi-clever little teen slasher. The masks that resemble the victims’ face was a nice touch. Park did well in her role and seems a step above the rest. Director Patrick Brice gave us some really great shots, with two that stand out being when Makani is being terrorized, she bends down to pick up a newspaper clipping and we see the killer is there through the window and when she stands back up, it’s shielding him; and then the closing sequence with the Sandford crops all on fire. That was beautiful-looking, even though it made no sense for our core group of hero students to drive into the crops to ostensibly mark a path for the other students to escape from; what if they ran over said kids?!
It should be noted that Brice was behind the brilliant little film, (and was also cinematographer and actor!) 2014’s Creep, which I didn’t realize had a sequel in 2017. This was Henry Gayden’s first feature length film script and I thought he did well! Again, criticism of high school kid characterization aside, I thought he handled a lot of the dialogue and horror sequences well. Even if high school kids don’t seem like high school kids, if the dialogue still works to where I’m not cringing or it doesn’t come across wooden, then it works for me. The kills were also inventive and interesting enough.
Overall, if you’re in the mood for a fun, not-too-much-to-think-about 90-minute teen slasher, especially for spooky season, then give this one a whirl.