Fantastic Fest 2021: There’s Someone Inside Your House

A high production value outing, riffing on other slashers that while not unique, has a few new things to say.


Synopsis: The graduating class at Osborne High is being targeted by a masked assailant, intent on exposing the darkest secret of each victim, and only a group of misfit outsiders can stop the killings.

While I wouldn’t consider myself a huge slasher fan, the subgenre is responsible for some of the longest running franchises and thrives on references to those before it in order to subvert expectations and reinvent itself. To call There’s Someone Inside Your House a reinvention would be too much – this is fairly standard fare as far as slashers go, but the characters are good. It is perhaps no surprise that director Patrick Brice allows for the beats of Henry Gayden’s script, featuring quips, awkwardness and the performativity of grief, given his involvement with Creep. Again, we’re not in anywhere near as dark or awkward territory as Brice’s work there, but it is nice to see those elements shine through at times, lending a sense of irreverence.

Makani (Sydney Park), like many teenagers, has a secret. So when her high school is targeted by a killer who wears a mask of each victim’s face and outs their secrets, she’s understandably shaken. As the body count rises she and her friends try to navigate the increasingly hostile environment while coming clean about their own transgressions.

Teen slashers tend to rest a great deal on their ensemble cast so it is to the film’s credit that it gets this absolutely right. Each teen is represented with layers, even if some dominant characteristics can come off a little stereotypical. I’d also have loved more for Darby (Jesse LaTourette) and Alex (Asjha Cooper) to do as they feel rather more side-lined than other characters. Cooper in particular steals every moment she is involved with. Sydney Park is required to do a lot of heavy lifting throughout which she manages ably.

The film does feel indebted to previous slashers, taking narrative beats, a killer opening sequence and even a direct shot from Scream. Similarly, a decision to throw a ‘Secret Party’ for the teens to confess their secrets in advance of being made the killer’s next target feels evocative of the would-be orgy arranged in Cherry Falls. Importantly, the film doesn’t linger too much on these similarities, making them nods rather than recreations. Possibly this is due to the story being taken from Stephanie Perkins’ novel, so brings its own depth in that respect.

The gore quota dials up where it needs to and while some may find the mix of humour alongside serious discussions of identity and redemption a little odd, the balance feels right throughout. Also, I’ve been chuckling to myself about the Corn in the USA harvest festival that makes up a section of the film for days now so there are several gags that really land. The weaknesses in the film lie in its ability to connect the threads of the story in a way that feels satisfactory and there is definitely a sense of it fizzling out towards the conclusion. I may be in a minority here, but the mask gimmick did not work for me at all – a fun idea, but incredibly difficult to execute effectively.

A zippy, easy-to-watch slasher that cares about its characters but still manages some irreverent laughs, There’s Someone Inside Your House makes for a fitting Halloween-season watch.

3.5 out of 5 stars

3.5 out of 5 stars

There’s Someone Inside Your House screened as part of Fantastic Fest 2021. See the schedule for more information. The film arrives on Netflix on October 6th.

Fantastic Fest 2021: Saloum

An energetic, genre-hopping adventure that strikes an emotional chord too.

Synopsis: 2003, three mercenaries extracting a druglord out of Guinea-Bissau are forced to hide in the mystical region of Saloum, Senegal.

Saloum wastes no time in setting out the dual nature of what it wants to do. Beginning with a quote about the destructive nature of revenge, terming it a river that we reach the bottom of when we drown, then immediately switching to a frenetic sequence set in the heart of a military coup, the film quickly establishes how quickly and effectively it can switch tone and themes, while still maintaining a handle on the material.

Due to this fluidity, it is difficult to go too far into the details of Saloum – this is something best experienced without too much prior knowledge. The basics are that the Bangui Hyenas, made up of Chaka (Yann Gael), Rafa (Roger Sallah) and Midnight (Mentor Ba) are mercenaries, tasked with removing a drug lord out of Guinea-Bissau during a coup. A troubled flight leads them to land in Saloum. Making a deal to stay at a camp there, it soon becomes apparent that not all is well in the area.

Director and co-writer Jean Luc Herbulot has said that Saloum is a “love letter to Africa and to cinema”. This is definitely something that sings throughout every frame of the film, with sweeping overhead photography showcasing the beauty of the landscape. The fluid camerawork continues on the ground, giving every scene a kinetic energy. The use of genre trappings (and the refusal to stick rigidly to them) shows the warmth for genres like horror and western. A pulsing soundtrack and reliance on hazy flashbacks to fill in details rather than too much spoken exposition keeps things moving at pace.

With all those technical considerations and almost meta construction, it would be easily for the characterisation or story to suffer under the weight of them. Thankfully, the thought put into the construction by Herbulot and co-writer Pamela Diop sustains the simple, yet emotionally charged story. The cast provide excellent support in this regard, with Yann Gael in particular demonstrating a magnetic screen presence. There is a lightness to their interactions, injecting some comedy into proceedings that helps with the connection to them. Evelyne Ily Juhen is a particular highlight, bringing an intensity to Awa that means you cannot take your eyes off her.

Due to the shifts the film takes, some elements do feel like they would benefit from slightly more development – the concepts are well-explained and visualised well, but a little more time to allow them to weave in to the rest of the story would be welcome, simply because it isn’t the kind of lore portrayed very much and definitely marks the most unique aspect of the film.

A compelling and emotional story, supported by excellent performances and a confident technical hand, Saloum is a great snapshot of action-horror.

4 out of 5 stars

4 out of 5 stars

Saloum screened as part of Fantastic Fest 2021. See the schedule for more information.