Looking for fun during The Most Wonderful Time of the Year? I’ve got a few ideas this season, and a few clunkers too…
Genre – Masked High School Slasher
Splat Factor – Middling? Knives, people attacked on screen, that kinda thing.
Year Released – 2021
Where I Watched – Netflix
What It Is: Makani Young (a supremely talented Sydney Park) has transitioned from life in Hawaii to life in Nebraska. She’s got friends, a DL beau, and college prospects. Yay! But a masked killer has begun picking off her classmates one by one, and showing everyone the secret the newly deceased had been hiding. Boo! Oh, and the killer is wearing masks of the individual they’re hunting…eek! [Based on the novel of the same name by Stephanie Perkins.]
Why Watch This: If you’re looking for a new slasher worth your time this Halloweek, look no further. House is surprisingly chilling for what at first seemed like a standard killing high schoolers horror movie. Director Patrick Brice brings his eerie sensibilities honed in Creep to a high school setting, and takes the typical paint-by-numbers tropes up a notch, into real suspense. screenwriter Henry Gayden takes Perkins’ novel and digs into how characters interact with each other. Naturally, there’s a particular focus on Final Girl Makani’s everyday fears – will her friends find out about how she sneaks off with [SPOILERS]? – to genuine fear for her life, and that her carefully hidden secret will get out. But with stories focused on secrets we keep, her friends Alex, Darby, Rodrigo, and Caleb all have things they hide, and emotional stakes in keeping them hidden. Big or small, House uncovers these secrets, and while not every secret ends up being a game-changer, there are after-effects that the characters go through that are plotted out well by Brice and Gayden.
A few things I didn’t like? Yeah, I’ve got a few. One secret is actually rather heartbreaking, and while it is a big deal for that individual, it’s more “that kid needs real help” rather than “that kid needs a moral comeuppance through Dis Blade”. This particular death broke my heart, and really had me hating the killer, which also made me thing about why I figured the first few deaths were rather a-ok in my mind. (Okay, the second one specifically. That character might not have deserved to die, but damn if they weren’t hot steaming garbage.) House made me consider what my BB-rattling-in-a-tuna-can brain considers reasonable or fair…and I’m still thinking about it. Damn, movie. Damn.
House also uses the Kids So Dumb trope over and over again. The masked killer is out to shame their victims before they die, by putting their secrets out there for the world to see. So you’d imagine that if someone saw, say, a trail of incriminating photographs leading to a room, they’d call the police, or at least cheese it outta there at top speed, yes? NOPE. Each one goes like a lamb to their slaughter, and I figured these characters were better than that. Guess I was wrong. I know; there needs to be kills in a slasher film. But with such an interesting story, I was hoping for a smarter group. *sighs sadly*
Those few downers don’t negate all the good in House. There’s a brilliant opening credits scene with someone taking yearbook photos and creating 3D masks from them. Social media and texting is pervasive, but used in a way that feels genuine rather than “how are you doing fellow kids”. The main character is a POC, and Hawaiian at that (go ahead, my Hapa peoples!) Gay and genderqueer characters are portrayed as just that; characters with goals and lives, not sterotype checkmarks. The way a character turns his dads collection of disgusting German WWII memorabilia into bongs. (#ChefsKiss) The opening scene harks back to Scream without being a shameless ripoff, setting up the rest of the story and getting viewers ready for the level of spooky they’re about to receive. And the climax is truly worth the price of admission; talk about payoff! I cheered, and I’m not ashamed.
How To Watch: This film is just plain-ol’ good, but gathering your besties together would make this slasher a bit more fun while y’all shout at the screen. As the story is set in Nebraska, have lots of corn-themed munchies; popcorn, candy corn (what?), cornbread and chili, or whatever floats your boat. And maybe a few Hawaiian munchies to represent Makani? Poke bowls, shredded pork, pineapple, shave ice… Now I’m hungry.
Grade: 4 out of 5 Pumpkins