As with any book-to-movie adaptation, where I’ve actually read the book beforehand, I viewed There’s Someone Inside Your House from two perspectives: as the curious film watcher and as the obsessed-with-the-book reader.
First, let’s dive into it strictly from a film watcher’s perspective.
When I watch a slasher film, I expect the genre’s basics: piercing screaming, a killer with mysterious motivations, and blood. Lots of blood. For bonus points, hopefully, a new final girl is executed well, no puns intended. While There’s Someone Inside Your House doesn’t necessarily break any huge boundaries for the genre, it’s delightfully all I’ve thought about ever since watching it.
Netflix’s latest teen slasher, There’s Someone Inside Your House, directed by Patrick Brice, follows Makani Young and friends as they navigate their senior year with a killer specifically targeting students with secrets, outing them with Midwestern Gossip Girl-style text blasts. I know what you’re thinking: doesn’t everyone have secrets? Yes, obviously, which is what makes the killer’s patterns that much more disheartening. The opening sequence tracks the first terrifying kill. The slow buildup is so frustratingly tense that you just want to slap the jock into realizing that the off-putting things in his house are actually something to be noticed, instead of talking to your moronic bro about pre-gaming. The tension steadily increases and the score beautifully intensifies with all of the right emotions. The shots start out open, airy, and filled with light and progressively become more isolated, claustrophobic, and dark as the sequence progresses. This opening sequence is an impeccable mood setter for the film, because, while the rest of the kills are just as personal and brutal, there’s nothing quite like discovering the first unsuspecting target.
Everyone is cast so perfectly. Makani, played by the captivating Sydney Park, is a guarded, talented poet whose dark past haunts her every move. Classically misunderstood bad boy with a marshmallow heart, Ollie Larsson is played by Théodore Pellerin. No matter where Théodore is in the frame, you’re drawn to his electric presence on screen. He does such an effective job in showcasing how caring, secluded, and invested Ollie can be. While I wish that there was more Makani and Ollie development as a unit, the time that we spend with them is always with purpose. Whether it’s to showcase their familiarity with each other, the extent of their closeness, or just how their dynamic functions when no one’s watching—it feels like we’re intruding on private moments with how easy their chemistry is. This is especially apparent in the scene where Ollie takes Makani to the ‘ocean,’ a field of swaying cornstalks, because he knows that she needs the calmness of being grounded in her Hawaiian roots. It really speaks to how well they know each other and are in tune to each other’s needs. It needs to be said that Diego Josef, who plays emotionally complex Rodrigo, is an absolute treasure and I can’t wait to see him in more projects going forward (you can currently catch him in the first season of Generation on HBO Max).
There are many relevant social issues woven into the narrative. Microaggressions, overt class issues, abolishing the police, and others fill scenes with punches of reality. Sometimes it can feel like a bit of word bingo, but, truly, it’s realistic at this point, so it’s smart to include that in a slasher narrative that you’re trying to ground in reality as much as possible. I thought that it worked really well, especially Makani’s core friend group’s reaction to Katie’s ‘oppression’ speech in the lunchroom. It was the ideal amount of cringe and aggravation, especially once you clock Rodrigo’s ‘come again?!’ head tilt when a privileged white girl says the word ‘oppression’ about her own life.
While there could be more kills and a better motivation for them happening, the only times that the film trips up are in how obvious the killer’s identity is if you’re paying attention to the right details. There’s only one character with enough privilege to have access to a 3D printer. Only one character who would have a lighter shaped like a grenade. Only one character who purposefully brings up the woes of the 1% when they’re in fact the 1% themselves. To me, it didn’t take away from the viewing experience, because you’re more focused on rooting for Makani to bring justice against him rather than his confusing rationale.
The score by Zachary Dawes intertwines subtle thrumming, smoothing out quiet rooms, with transitions into distorted pounding of a killer on the attack. The tensions are consistently raised and suspicions reinforced with the undeniable eeriness and quintessential intense booming keeping us invested.
Honestly, I’ve not stopped thinking about this movie since I watched it and I’m pretty sure the line “hope they’re serving Fireball in paradise, brother” will never leave my mind. Take that as you will.
Next, let’s embark on the perspective from a reader of the Stephanie Perkins novel of the same name. (book spoilers incoming…)
One of the great joys of Stephanie’s writing is how there’s a seamless blend of terror, romance, and the everyday normalcy in a, hopefully, unrealistic situation. There’s so much deeply authentic material that it’s seductively luscious to get yourself lost in. There are absolutely brutal murders on the page juxtaposed with the delicate newness of true connection just a chapter later. The adaptation, written by Henry Gayden, managed translate the overall tone, energy, mixed genres of the book quite well. Though, I would’ve wanted more of the central romance, if I had to be picky.
Where the issues in the adaptation come in are when you try a ‘less is more approach’ even though you have actual screen time for more. More character and relationship building. More kills. More time to deepen the mystery and suspense. There are lots that could’ve been done in even an extra twenty minutes. I’m not the type to grip onto every single detail for dear life (though after writing this, I feel like I might be that person more than I realized) in an adaptation, but in this case, there’s some missing character development that would’ve made the audience even more fascinated by the lives of these gems of characters. The prime example of this is how some of the core connection between Makani and Ollie is altered quite dramatically. In the film, there’s all of the pressure from her friends for Makani to believe that Ollie could be the killer, when within the pages the pressure is still there, but there’s more time spent with the couple’s development for her to never truly believe that he was capable of such atrocities. I mean, how someone could suspect Ollie, a frequent wearer of soft, waffle knitted grey sweaters would be the killer is beyond me. Ollie’s just presented as an outsider with a dark past; someone who had had a summer connection with Makani and how she purposefully ditched him for the sake of her reputation at her new school. In the book, they had had a miscommunication and it turned out that neither of them wanted to be apart. This distinction makes movie Makani seem like she just cared more about her reputation at her new school rather than being with someone that she clearly had a connection with. If there were more quiet moments between the two, similar to the beloved cornstalk ‘ocean’ scene thankfully portrayed in the movie, then their bond would’ve been less like she was ashamed and more like they were simply a trusted secret. How someone can think that Ollie’s
It is expected that adaptations are going to change facets of the narrative to better fit a visual representation of the world. Some things that work on the page just do not translate well. Like how the film’s killer wears masks of their victim’s face, while the pages portray a killer in a classic black hoodie. Suffice to say, one is clearly more visually scary than the other one. However, I did find it questionable to take away the distinctive brutal visuals of the kills, splayed out in gruesome ways, tailored to each specific victim. The way that this would’ve easily translated to the screen makes it debatable as to why they didn’t keep that feature. Maybe they felt like it would’ve been too much for a teen slasher, but they were probably underestimating their audience. Commonly with adaptations, there’s a jumbled combination of merging book characters together or eliminating them entirely and this is clearly the main reason why the killer himself wasn’t the same person in both formats. This alteration was a bit jarring. The kids in the book, in general, are terrified by the prospect of a killer being on the loose and potentially targeting them. There’s a heavier weight that the killer is a lot more ruthless, personal, and genuinely haunting. The stakes always seem higher when a killer’s patterns are more difficult to track. The majority of the kills reinforce the book’s title, which makes it all the scarier even though the town is aware of the killer’s general presence.
In the end, though, both the film and book are worth your time. The film encapsulates the thrilling, intense, heartwarming, and tragic moments portrayed in the book, but the moral of the visual story is to never trust a guy with long emo bangs who seems innocent.