The Screen Scene: Fantastic Fest 2021

Slasher films used to be the most popular sub-genre in horror. In the heydays of the 1980s, there were new installments of the Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises nearly every year. As Parts 3 and 4 gave way to Parts 5 and 6, slasher films grew tired. Then Wes Craven’s revisionist slasher, Scream, hit theaters in 1996, and the slasher genre felt new again, populated by snarky characters who knew the rules of the genre and filmmakers who knew how to subvert audience expectations.

More than 25 years later, a fifth Scream film is expected in January 2022. The latest installment in the new Halloween trilogy is due to hit theaters and the Peacock streaming service on Oct.15, and the remake of Slumber Party Massacre arrives on the SyFy channel on Oct. 16. Are slasher films having yet another revival? They’re certainly being produced again in large quantities, but are these sequels and remakes bringing anything new to the table? That remains to be seen.

The first of the bumper crop of slasher films to arrive this fall is There’s Someone Inside Your House, a new Netflix original film that hits the streaming service on Oct. 6. The set-up is familiar: a group of high school students are being picked off one by one by a masked killer. The modern twist? The killings are designed to expose the victims’ secrets or hidden lives, the true versions of themselves they keep from the public.

The usual slasher tropes are present and accounted for: (1) hazings gone wrong, (2) gory murders, (3) a clever use of masks, (4) clueless law enforcement officers, (5) local teens solving crimes and (6) a seemingly indestructible killer. What makes There’s Someone Inside Your House more interesting than a run-of-the-mill slasher film is the way technology and social media play parts in the murders. No secret is safe in our modern world. One ill-advised tweet, and the world’s perception of you may be forever altered.

The killer in the film is the ultimate extension of cancel culture. If you offend the sensibilities of the masked murderer, then you are due to be erased not just from the conversation, but from life itself. It’s the death penalty for hypocrites, and the film has fun dispensing “justice” to the people who never seem to pay for their hypocrisy.

There’s Someone Inside Your House takes me back to my days as a teenager watching slasher films in theaters. So much has changed in the world since then (cell phones, social media, streaming services), but the film still evokes the fun of those films from the 1980s. So many of the horror films of the last twenty years are just sadistically brutal with no sense of fun or cleverness to be found.

There’s Someone Inside Your House does not attain the heights of the classics of the genre, but it’s not a boring retread, either. It’s like eating a cookie that’s just a little bit stale. It’s hard to complain. It’s still a cookie.