They’re Inside has an interesting concept supported by some interesting choices but the overall execution leaves this found-footage feeling like something of a missed opportunity.
Synopsis: When two sisters go to an isolated cabin in the woods to film a passion project, family secrets start to get in the way… as do masked strangers filming a passion project of their own.
I think it says a lot for the cooling-off of the found-footage sub genre that my heart didn’t immediately sink upon seeing that this film was to follow that path. Due to the relative low cost of making found-footage films they became a favourite in indie and mainstream films, resulting in a huge number of films but a dearth of original ideas. Happily, after reaching saturation point, the storytelling method is not used quite so much at the moment so seeing a found footage now doesn’t inspire the same level of fatigue. With that said, They’re Inside is pretty refreshing in terms of how it deals with its material. Yes, the usual tropes and logical failings are present, but it frequently uses the method to conceal and reveal plot points in a quite clever way. This at least offers a rationale for using the device and while I’m not entirely convinced by some of the more meta elements the film pursues, it does at least have the ambition to say something, even if the message is a little muddled.
As an interesting contrast to the shaky-cam footage which features in the film, there are also title cards and footage of predator and prey inter-cut within it. These cutaways are very effective at breaking through the comfort of expectations we all have of found-footage films. As a result, I think the play with the format could have been pushed further which might have expanded on the meta elements a little more and set the film apart even further.
I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that They’re Inside features one of my favourite opening scenes in horror for some time. It is excellently put-together and evolves in a way that is deliciously creepy. In fact, many of the intended creepy moments within the film are handled well and that is mostly down to some excellent framing. The framing keeps everything out of view until it is absolutely necessary and creates a few jump scares without the use of stingers on soundtracks which is impressive. It is these moments, over the gorier ones that have stayed with me and kept me thinking about the film afterwards.
By setting such an impressive opening scene it is difficult to maintain the energy throughout. Unfortunately, there are pacing issues where it feels like a lot of time is spent with the characters without moving the story forward or even learning more about them. The acting is fine for the most part, bar a few moments where more hysterical performances give way to the hammy, but that is always a difficult balance. Karli Hall as director Robin and Amanda Kathleen Ward as her sister Cody are required to do most of the heavy-lifting and their performances are solid.
Overall, They’re Inside is flawed but interesting and as John-Paul Panelli’s directorial debut shows great promise for his future projects. As always, it is better to see something which tries something different and doesn’t quite hit the mark, than something solid but too familiar.