Grimmfest 2021: The Guest Room

The Guest Room is a home invasion thriller with a difference, probing the nature of isolation and trauma as it raises the stakes.

Synopsis: The morning Stella decides to take her own life, a stranger knocks at her door claiming the guest room he booked for the night. Surprised but charmed by this man who seems to know her very well, Stella decides to let him in. But when Sandro, the man who broke Stella’s heart, joins them at home, this odd situation turns immediately into chaos.

“This time thing is a mess,” posits a character in The Guest Room, but thankfully the film doesn’t live up to that line, producing an intriguing take on the home invasion thriller.

From the outset of The Guest Room (La Stanza) introduces Stella (Camilla Filippi) as a Miss Havisham-style figure, wandering her home in a wedding gown, deeply upset and on the brink of ending her life. She is interrupted by a knock at the door and is soon confronted by pushy stranger Giulio (Guido Caprino) who insists that he has booked a stay at the house despite Stella having removed the listing from booking sites. He is so insistent and the weather is so bad that Stella relents and allows him to stay. But soon the stranger reveals himself to be out for far more than an overnight stay.

With so many pandemic projects in the works, it is easy to find yourself fatigued by the themes of isolation. Where The Guest Room succeeds then is in approaching this in a way that feels different, linking its study of isolation not to the pandemic, but to the depths of emotional trauma and the way it can spread through families, leaving a damaging legacy. Despite being made under pandemic conditions, the separation from it will ultimately serve this film well, giving it a sense of timelessness.

Confining the action to the house and mostly to the performances of Filippi, Caprino and later, Edoardo Pesce as Sandro, The Guest Room is somewhat minimalist, but dials up the drama steadily. The large house that provides the base for the film works well, providing a large kitchen area that allows all three to be in the same space at once, but also benefits from several rooms to dispatch characters to at certain points allowing the narrative to further unfold. The house’s design is excellent too – almost fairy-tale-like in its construction and multiple hallways and grand staircases. That much of the house feels untouched and unprepared lends pathos, pulling the viewer into the mindset of the characters.

As so much of the film is reliant on dialogue and tense situations in which uncomfortable revelations and confessions spill out, there is a reliance on melodramatic performances, which won’t be to everyone’s tastes. That the film evolves into its final form rather delicately, adding new details section by section rather than in the form of a veering twist gives it a sophistication alongside its more dramatic tendencies.

While not perfect thanks to a middle section that slows and becomes repetitive, this is undoubtedly a fresh way of tackling the themes we’ve all become far too accustomed to over the last year or so. A shorter run time, still allowing the mood to fester and having the confidence that its concept is well realised enough to not have to dwell on making sure the audience have understood.

Striking in its beauty but a little overlong for the story it needs to tell, The Guest Room is definitely one to look out for if you enjoy genre blending and high tension.

3 out of 5 stars

3 out of 5 stars

The Guest Room plays as part of Grimmfest 2021. See the Grimmfest page for more information.

Grimmfest 2021: Night Drive

An absorbing watch that relies on tight scripting and the interplay between its core performers.

Synopsis: A ride share driver’s life is turned upside down after an unexpected series of misfortunes.

Seeing a film set at Christmas time and starring both AJ Bowen and Scott Poythress definitely attracted my attention, calling to mind the casting and setup for the excellent I Trapped The Devil. Night Drive is a very different film, although does share some of the same sensibilities, putting a lot on the performers to carry the story, but also complicates things by the narrative involving a car journey, isolating the characters and forcing them to bridge the generational (and later, moral) gap as they journey.

Russell (AJ Bowen) is a ride-share driver whose expensive car hints at his previous experience as an app developer. Unfortunately, a decision to sell too early meant that his buyout was minimal, setting in motion a chain of events that has cost him his marriage and previous lifestyle. He settles into the drudgery of his new role until his pattern is interrupted by Charlotte (Sophie Dalah) a troubled woman who quickly throws his night into chaos.

Night Drive feels like a careful blend of genre elements, fusing together the kind of ‘hangout horror’ that keeps locations minimal and dialogue punchy, but doesn’t stray away from darkly comic elements and lashings of gore where necessary. To say any more about the direction this takes would head too far into spoiler territory, but there is something that offers a dramatic departure that is very well handled while still under some clear budget restrictions. Bowen and Dalah feel almost effortless in their roles, shifting from an unusual, concerned relationship into a more spiky negotiation.

Meghan Leon takes on co-directing and writing here, sharing directing duties with Brad Baruh, both contributing to a film that will keep the viewer guessing all the while. Cleverly peppered phrases and actions will reward multiple viewings, threading everything so while some will find the film’s trajectory surprising, it does all manage to hang together convincingly. There are moments where it feels like the film treads water somewhat, as if it is almost too worried about pulling the trigger on its more left-field moves. Once it overcomes that hesitation, it heads back on track with renewed energy, but that lull is noticeable.

An appealing, darkly comic thriller with two first-rate performances make this a drive worth settling in for.

3.5 out of 5 stars

3.5 out of 5 stars

Night Drive plays as part of Grimmfest 2021. See the Grimmfest page for more information.

Grimmfest 2021: Forgiveness

An esoteric satire offering that can’t differentiate between its themes, resulting in a directionless tour of a hellish hospital.

Synopsis: Three women mysteriously wake up in a hospital and discover that one of them is deaf, one is mute and the other one is blind; together they will have to figure out why they are there and how to get out.

I’m not entirely sure that without the above synopsis I would have realised that the three victims in this were meant to have awoken with different afflictions. Forgiveness, though divided into chapters to explore each girl’s experience is largely dialogue-free, meaning that them being deaf or mute hardly seems to matter much in the grand scheme of things. Further to this, it means you’re presented with a film that is, at least on some level painting a damning portrait of misogyny and the cyclical impact of patriarchal abuse but that ensures none of its central female characters are given a voice at all. The result is an experience of watching them stumble into a variety of ever more hellish situations with no real concept of who they are which hardly adds up to a fulfilling viewing experience.

This is frustrating for obvious reasons, but also because the film itself is technically proficient and there are a few sparks of ideas that hint at something more purposeful, or at least something with a more distinct identity. A sequence set around a dance displays director Alex Kahuam’s eye for creating surreal and arguably beautiful moments within a horror context. Situating the bulk of the film within the hospital allows for the switching up of lighting to produce different effects and builds dread as to what awaits the women in each section.

The construction of the nightmarish set pieces are well achieved, although some will find elements distasteful. This brings me to another issue with the film – there’s relatively little palatable going on within the film, but it never quite reaches the unpleasantness of so-called extreme cinema, leaving it in purgatory – too nasty for mainstream viewers, not challenging enough for those testing their boundaries. This, coupled with a message that is writ large across the film ends up feeling hollow as a result.

Lengthy pauses and transitions make the short runtime feel much longer, especially as there are no real characterisations to cling to. Extended periods of walking from room to room results in a drawn-out pace that fails to add any tension or meaning. The choice to present the majority of the film without dialogue is admirable, placing all the focus on the construction of the visuals, but with so little else to connect with, it is a hard sell. The runtime isn’t particularly long, but those pauses and the near-endless abuse of the main characters lengthen it considerably.

It is clear that there is meaning within the film, but unfortunately that meaning can’t overcome the presentation and pacing issues that make it a slow, frustrating and ultimately alienating watch.

1.5 out of 5 stars

1.5 out of 5 stars

Forgiveness plays as part of Grimmfest 2021. See the Grimmfest page for more information.

Grimmfest 2021: King Knight

A completely charming film about misfits and the search for belonging.

Synopsis: The High Priest of a modern-day coven finds his life thrown into turmoil and ventures out on a journey of self-discovery.

The past year or so has been difficult on everyone, cut off from support networks and sources of community, the threat of illness and financial issues looming large. So, it could be said we’re all ready for something a little lighter. However, if you told me that the film that would make me smile the most this year (well, maybe second next to Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar) would come from the usually acerbic writer-director Richard Bates Jr. I’d have been very surprised.

Matthew Gray Gubler plays Thorn, currently living what amounts to a dream life with partner Willow (Angela Sarafyan). The pair, rock-solid in their relationship have taken their position at the head of a coven, becoming a source of comfort and guidance to the other members. However, as email invitations to a high school reunion arrive, Thorn’s past returns to haunt him.

For those who have followed Richard Bates Jr.’s career to this point, this rather touching exploration of someone finding a space for themselves in the world will feel like a dramatic departure. Although this lacks some of the bite of something like Tone Deaf, that’s not to say it is completely toothless, taking aim at some practices that while earnest, feel ridiculous, like Thorn’s role in the competitive birdbath industry. The deadpan sensibility cuts through some of the sweetness, meaning things aren’t entirely saccharine and most importantly, the film is frequently laugh out loud funny.

While there is no denying that this is primarily Gubler’s film and he delivers a suitably hilarious performance that draws on both verbal and physical comedy, it is the ensemble casting that adds that extra spark. Sarafyan is excellent as Willow, supportive, yet realistic about Thorn’s limitations and fiercely loyal even when the life they have built together is called into question. Johnny Pemberton as Desmond, one of the coven members is a smaller role, but one that he adds a lot of empathy and humour too. In fact, no one feels particularly lost in the shuffle and I imagine everyone will have a favourite to cling to.

During a Beltane celebration in which the traditional bonfire has been downgraded due to a previous injury, the women of the coven say of the men in their lives, ‘if only their brains were as big as their hearts’. This, in many ways could be the calling card of the entire film – this is a film that is unashamed in the amount of fun it is having, has disregarded almost any attempts at being overtly smart or probing, but provides the viewer with a great time and numerous opportunities for the warm fuzzy feeling that comes from a film with such a nice central message.

Stylistically, there’s plenty going on here, with slow-motion music video-style sequences bridging the gap between scenes and allowing the cast to have fun with that – it also provides an opportunity for them to enrich their characters, even in small ways, while keeping the pacing buoyant.

As unexpected as a cosy film from the names involved may be King Knight functions as a lovely surprise and a much-needed touch of funny, heartfelt silliness.

4.5 out of 5 stars

4.5 out of 5 stars

King Knight plays as part of Grimmfest 2021. See the Grimmfest page for more information.

Grimmfest 2021: Faceless

A few too many moving parts make this identity thriller a little muddled.

Synopsis: A disoriented and frightened man awakens in a hospital room to discover he’s the recipient of a full face transplant. Plagued by weird flashbacks, no memory and no visitors, he is unprepared when they release him from the hospital. When a mysterious red- haired woman, Sophie, befriends him, life gets even weirder. Suddenly a hooded man stalks him, his friends abandon him, and strangers give him odd looks. Distraught he goes out drinking only to end up in an altercation with a man – who has no face! Now he must investigate what has happened and who is stalking him before it’s too late…

Kicking off at a dog fighting event (following in similar footsteps to director Marcel Sarmiento’s ABC’s of Death segment D is for Dogfight) where George (Brendan Sexton III) ends up mauled after a run in with some people he has been trying to avoid, Faceless sets itself out early on as something that isn’t concerned with answering every question you might have about it, allowing the central mystery to stew.

The concept is a relatively simple one – after his attack, George awakes with severe memory loss at the Klein Institute, an advanced medical facility that has almost perfected the science of facial transplants. I say almost, there are side effects, including memory loss, tissue rejection and of course, the existential terror of waking up with someone else’s face. His discharge from the hospital feels premature and it isn’t long before he experiences even stranger fall out as a literally faceless assailant assaults him. With aftercare not exactly high on the agenda for the institute, it’s up to George to put together the pieces himself.

Throughout, screeching sonic flashbacks try to cast light on George’s predicament, including a vivid memory he seems to have of a woman he has never met. When he finally meets Sophie (Alex Essoe), their connection raises even more questions. This is much the way Faceless is constructed, constantly weaving more mystery before it fully unfolds another. This works to some extent, keeping things murky for as long as possible while dialling up the action. However, there is a sense that this teasing out takes too long and adds in too many moving parts to head into a satisfying conclusion. In addition, it feels like an attempt to unpick everything arrives late into the runtime, resulting in a lot of expositional scenes that would usually be handled early on so the introduction of so much late on does throw it off balance.

The prosthetics work is great here, which assists in the overall effect – George has to work on solving his mysteries all while his new face struggles to bed in, often drooping at one side. The other effects support this, offering a sense of impact in violent scenes in addition to the intricacy of the surgical scenes. The performances are solid, especially given the work with prosthetics and the need to sell the story often on very little outward information.

A little more cohesion would help it greatly and it feels sometimes like the film is struggling against its own weight – still, it’s a novel idea with a decently sketched conspiracy throughout.

2.5 out of 5 stars

2.5 out of 5 stars

Faceless plays as part of Grimmfest 2021. See the Grimmfest page for more information.

Grimmfest 2021: Night At The Eagle Inn

A thoroughly likeable film about two siblings seeking to find out more about their past.

Synopsis: Fraternal twins spend a hellish night at the remote inn their father disappeared from the night they were born.

There is something to be said for films that have the conviction to be as long as it takes to tell their stories – in some cases, that will mean three-hour-long sagas and for others, like Eagle Inn, what the film sets out to do is done and dusted in around an hour and 10 minutes. This keeps everything sharp, trimming any unnecessary sections and maintaining the focus on the central sibling relationship and providing the scares. Like director and writer pair Erik and Carson Bloomquist’s previous outing, Ten Minutes to Midnight, there is a focus on using established horror tropes to create something more interesting.

Twins Sarah (Amelia Dudley) and Spencer (Taylor Turner) head to the Eagle Inn to further investigate the strange circumstances around their birth. Having lost both their parents, the pair have a somewhat morbid interest in their origins, taking to recording a podcast. Soon, strange happenings at the Inn start to feel too close for comfort for the pair.

Amelia Dudley and Taylor Turner are really the heart of this, presenting the close, but sparky relationship between the pair convincingly. Their close bond, formed from the early tragedy in their life has given them elements of gallows humour but this never tips over into anything nihilistic nor unlikeable. As the film progresses, their interactions with Dean (Beau Minniear, delivering a gleefully entertaining performance) sew a little friction between them, but the threat throughout is definitely focused upon the Inn.

The titular Eagle Inn is described within the film as having a kind of ‘nondescript gloom’ – a sense of something very wrong running through it. Indeed, the film itself utilises J-Horror scares as well as more conventional ‘hotel horror’ and other ghost story tropes, blending them together. The result is perhaps not wholly original and it is possible to read some of the narrative direction in advance of its arrival, but a fun take on them that contributes plenty in the way of scares, structure and uncanny imagery.

From an explosive opening, all the way through to the conclusion, Eagle Inn feels like something that succeeds due to its restrictions, rather than in spite of them. It is clear that there is not a huge budget so everything is designed to wring the maximum effect out of what is available, leaning on the charming performances and skill of the film-makers to draw the viewer in. The shorter length will put some in mind of episodes of series like The Twilight Zone, ably building and concluding an entire world within just over an hour.

A short, sharp, sweet and occasionally campy take on the haunted hotel film that delivers likeable performances and a clear confidence with the material at hand.

4 out of 5 stars

4 out of 5 stars

Night At The Eagle Inn plays as part of Grimmfest 2021. See the Grimmfest page for more information.

Grimmfest 2021: Alone With You

A tightly wound claustrophobic chiller that stumbles in the third act.

Synopsis: As a young woman painstakingly prepares a romantic homecoming for her girlfriend, their apartment begins to feel more like a tomb when voices, shadows, and hallucinations reveal a truth she has been unwilling to face.

Emily Bennett (also co-writing and co-directing alongside Justin Brooks) plays Charlie, a young woman eagerly awaiting the return of her girlfriend Simone (Emma Myles). As the night wears on, with no sign of Simone, the apartment takes on an increasingly sinister turn.

Setting up Charlie as solitary in the apartment for much of the runtime really allows for that sense of isolation to settle in, resulting in a stifling, uncomfortable atmosphere. Intrusions in the form of phone calls or video chats with her mother (Barbara Crampton in a small role, but nonetheless one that she gives her all) or friend Thea (Dora Madison of Bliss) are the only events that prevent her from being completely alone. That those conversations soon turn tense, focused on the difficult relationship between Charlie and Simone drives her further into damaging introspection.

Early on, the limited location of the apartment becomes far more than a sign of budget constraints – every corner of the apartment is traversed, from portraits on the wall, to a room of photographer Simone’s mannequins, covered in cloth, every single detail is expanded upon, feeling like a lived-in space. That the film allows you to attune so keenly to the surroundings of the flat then allows it to play with rather more subtle scares. The smallest of shifts grabs your attention, even when the film doesn’t linger to draw attention to it. The stolen glimpses and carefully staged movements are some of the better examples of haunting imagery I’ve seen in some time. On the subject of time, the treatment of it here is skilful, distorting time with simple but effective methods.

With all this careful construction within the apartment, it is a shame that the film elects to go a different direction and while that lends it more originality, it does feel like a misstep. Without spoiling the film, it is at its best within the confines of the house and as it strays from that grounding, evolving and becoming more unhinged it does lose a degree of the gripping psychodrama that has previously played out. Your mileage may vary, of course, but for me the strength of the film lies in allowing Bennett’s beautifully layered performance to unfold within the walls.

A film with such a keen sense of building atmosphere in a small, tightly scripted story that comes off the hinges by the conclusion, but still leaves a deeply scary impression.

3 out of 5 stars

3 out of 5 stars

Alone With You plays as part of Grimmfest 2021. See the Grimmfest page for more information.

Grimmfest 2021: The Beta Test

Toxic masculinity goes to Hollywood in this polished, biting satire.

Synopsis: A married Hollywood agent receives a mysterious letter for an anonymous sexual encounter and becomes ensnared in a sinister world of lying, infidelity, and digital data.

Partly a very niche exploration of a rich, distant world and partly a study of the need for once-powerful men to consult their own misdeeds in order to survive heightened scrutiny, The Beta Test is an engaging film that juggles serious topics with elements of humour to keep things moving.

Jim Cummings excels here, painting central character Jordan Hines as unbearably cocksure with underlying desperation and anxiety. It is a big performance, but one that fits entirely in the environment it takes place. As Hines struggles with the consequences of his actions, that openly confident and open veneer, constantly underscored by an intensely positive chorus of “we love that” or “we’re excited”. PJ (co-writer and director PJ McCabe) is given a slightly more redeemable position, but is still given to some of the same dramatics as Jordan, giving their scenes together a propulsive energy. It is to Cummings’ credits that the performance just grows and grows, presenting Jordan as a character whose own carefully crafted persona begins to strangle him.

Jordan’s perception of the world around him forms a major part of the early section of the film. As wedding plans are discussed, he imagines himself as the prey of women around him, an initial sign of his commitment crisis that expands into an unravelling that is compelling to watch even if you find yourself hating him. His perception that after years of being a consumer, he’s now to be consumed is the starting thread for much to follow. His wife-to-be Caroline (Virginia Newcomb) is hung up on details, often blissfully unaware that Jordan is often not listening to her. The skill of Cummings’ performance is in that it delights in the disintegration of Jordan and a life built on cannibalising, chewing up and spitting out others in pursuit of his ideal life – there’s no sympathy, yet at no point do you want to turn away.

The location of course, becomes a big part of this and references to men trying to operate in their world ‘post-Harvey’, is one of the central crises. The sense that the time for unpunished transgressions is a thing of the past and everyone within the business has skeletons in their closet about their treatment of other people (especially women) that may be unearthed at any time is palpable. That specific location and set of circumstances does make this a very specific satire which may well lose some viewers, although the observations on wider male behaviour and entitlement work even outside that context.

Arguably what works better is the delve that the film does into the world of algorithm and how the need to categorise and market every piece of social media content becomes an undeniable digital footprint that places even our most secret desires into the hands of large companies. The idea of ‘scrapable data’ extends beyond the Hollywood-specific setting and into something that extends outside of that world, feeling more universal and pressing. That Jordan and PJ find themselves dinosaurs in both the world of Hollywood agency and ill-equipped to face the new digital world is a particularly interesting aspect.

Perhaps fittingly, in toying with the conventions of the Hollywood satire and even erotic thriller, The Beta Test occasionally makes itself difficult to quantify. The opening scene, featuring an act of violence in opulent surroundings feels like the film at its most serious, lacking the winking and nudging that follows once we are introduced to Jordan. There is a cruelty to this scene – male violence at its most overt and terrifying, which the film uses to segue into the attitudes that make that kind of event all too plausible.

A magnetic, frequently unhinged performance from Cummings underpins this sharp satire, skewering the kind of damaging masculinity and the businesses that reward the domineering, boundary-pushing behaviour that the most toxic types promote.

4 out of 5 stars

4 out of 5 stars

The Beta Test plays as part of Grimmfest 2021. See the Grimmfest page for more information.

Salem Horror Festival – 6:45

An inventive and disturbing time-loop horror.

Synopsis: What if one of the best days of your life suddenly turned into your very worst nightmare? And what if you were forced to relive that same day again and again?

The time loop concept is one that (fittingly enough) often finds itself repeated in film, spanning genres with each new release building upon and subverting the tropes of the entries before it. 6:45 has all this history and layering built in, including a consideration of the gendered differences in these films (men experience and navigate the loop, women are often manipulated as a result of the repetition) and by presenting a sinister threat to the couple, exploits this legacy to incredibly disquieting effect.

Bobby (Michael Reed) and Jules (Augie Duke) are a passionate but troubled couple, taking some time away on Bog Grove, an island where Bobby grew up. The pair seek to put their recent differences aside and enjoy their holiday. Despite those tensions and an early morning alarm that neither recalls setting, they do manage a near-perfect day until the pair are brutally attacked by a hooded stranger. As Bobby wakes at 6:45am he realises they are on track to repeat the same day over and over.

The time loops within 6:45 are handled in economical fashion, avoiding too much repetition of near-identical scenes, instead having Bobby come to terms with what is happening relatively quickly and setting about trying to change things. Director Craig Singer utilises multiple scenes playing out in collage fashion, building the layers of their relationship up to the trip as well as the loops within it, allowing for a texture to develop without the need to offer too many flashbacks that would risk interrupting the flow. It is a clever move that plunges the viewer into the chaos the relationship so often presents. That the first day plays out in greater detail allows for the solidification of their relationship and how the pair work together. Reed and Duke have excellent chemistry, which is difficult when they have to move from passionate sex scenes, arguments, enjoyment of one another’s company, all with an underlying tension that never feels far from the surface. Both performances feel organic, which offset a few larger, more variable performances from some supporting actors, but as the focus remains on Jules and Bobby those moments don’t detract from that core relationship.

As the narrative continues there is a tendency to draw proceedings out a little too long and it loses much of its forward direction. That this happens as the film takes a far darker, more hard-hitting turn is unfortunate, leading to a period where the film wanders, seemingly unable to find its footing. When it does find itself again, it does so with considerable impact with a tonal shift that won’t be for everyone, but justifies itself well enough and more importantly, sets itself apart from other takes on time loops. The sense of threat is well realised throughout with the presence of the hooded figure never far from the couple in a development that prompts the viewer to continuously search the frame. The coastal scenery features heavily, drawing on the quietness of the area to enhance the isolation and co-dependence of Jules and Bobby.

An impactful study of a tense relationship, supported by dedicated performances that allow the narrative to explore much darker themes and stand out more as a result.

3.5 out of 5 stars

3.5 out of 5 stars

6:45 played as part of the Salem Horror Festival. You can check out more about the festival at their webpage. For more information about where you can see 6:45 see the film’s webpage.

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.

THERE’S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE – Cr. © 2021 Netflix, Inc.

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.