July 10, 2019 They’re Inside (Movie Review)
Pain is as authentic to the human experience as love—and we’re all a little mad here. In the brand-new Horror flick They’re Inside, a group of friends retreat to the woods to film a passion project that is about to undergo a major plot twist. Prepare yourself: the ax will swing on Tuesday, July 16th, 2019, when DREAD delivers the film to Blu-ray and VOD.
“Lover’s Weekend” details a long, snowy weekend between a young couple, and it is the passion project that is driving aspiring writer-director Robin (Karli Hall: Being Charlie 2015, The Hollow Point 2016). Having won a contest for the chance to shoot her movie in a cabin in the California woods, she gathers her cast and crew and heads out. This includes her little sister Cody (Amanda Kathleen Ward: Fate 2014, Nocturne short 2016), a documentarian; college friend and aspiring actor Aaron (Sascha Ghafoor: The Wedding Invitation 2017, Rift 2018); professionally-trained actress Joanna (Chelsea D. Miller: Spaceman 2016, Unjust Circle short 2018), who will be portraying Robin; and childhood friend Doogie (Jake Ferree: Loop short 2017, The Baxters series), the director of photography who adamantly demands to be called Doug.
Upon the groups’ arrival, they find an unlocked house in the forest with quite the collection of pinecones in odd places and one locked bedroom with a candy apple red doorknob. These are merely small trifles, however, compared to the tension that slowly begins to envelope the group: Joanna is annoyed with the untrained Aaron, her co-star, while Cody and Robin have quite the laundry list of unresolved issues from their past. Then there’s Robin’s husband Max (Schuyler Brumley: Paranormal Ex-tivity short 2016, Ching Chong Blues series), who might not be physically present, but he’s funding this adventure and always on her mind.
As the group finally settle in and begin to work, during their most pivotal scene of filming the doorbell rings. Standing barefoot on the doorstep is a completely awkward woman (Alex Rinehart: The Black Room 2017, Art of the Dead 2019), presumably a neighbor, who apologizes for her husband (Matthew Peschio: Rottweiler 2016, Deadwood: The Movie 2019), who has been chopping wood in the wee hours of each morning. Her arrival sets a series of events into motion that will end with the group of aspiring creators fighting for their lives—but are they the filmmakers or the ones being filmed?
Clocking in at 83 minutes, They’re Inside marks the feature-length debut for the exceptionally-talented director John-Paul Panelli (The Enigma of David Ellingham short 2014, Loop short 2017), and its screenplay was co-written by Panelli with Brumley, who portrays Robin’s husband Max in the film. A note before viewing: this contains graphic violence (obviously), full-frontal male nudity, and mentions of childhood sexual abuse.
They’re Inside kicks off to a killer opening scene that really sets the mood for a thrilling Horror experience. With some meta quirks, a dash of Slasher tendencies and Found Footage surreality, and plenty of tension, this is a film that does everything right and is likely to remind fans of 2008’s The Strangers. While the initial premise is different, there are many similarities between the two films and their brand of stranger-danger thrills that haunt long after the closing credits.
Utilizing this strong, original screenplay to their advantage, the cast do an excellent job in their unique roles. Miller, Ghafoor, and Ferree all fair well, and while none receive exceptional character development, they make their roles work. Miller (Joanna) is solid as a professional actress starring alongside an amateur, somewhat annoyed with her co-star’s ineptitude but never entirely unlikable or bratty. For his part, Ghafoor (Aaron) does an excellent job of acting within the movie embedded in this film. He’s (intentionally) not always perfectly poised and smooth with his delivery, and for this he makes the experience of filming “Lover’s Weekend” feel realistic. This adds weight to the Found Footage and meta aspects of this film, as a whole.
Though he too has minimal character development, Ferree’s Doogie is fully likable as the soft-spoken childhood friend who has stuck through thick and thin with the sisters. In fact, we get a feeling that he has a definite soft spot for Ward’s Cody. A well-rounded character with a traumatic past, Cody requires a certain finesse that Ward delivers in spades. She’s suitably affected by her childhood and yet a functional adult, a woman fighting to move past the skeleton in her closet. For this, she is fully sympathetic yet her older sister, to some degree, is not. Hall’s Robin is a multi-faceted character, a woman so hellbent on bringing her film to life that she often comes across as somewhat self-centered, overlooking the emotional well-being of her cast and crew. Hall’s portrayal is excellent, full of nuances that make her complicated character believable and never obviously sympathetic or villainous.
However, it just might be the two masked psychos who steal the show—literally! Rinehart and Peschio are genius in their roles as the killers. If you have a sadistic sense of humor, Peschio especially does a bang up job with his flat but sociopathic character. His voice might be honey smooth, but never trust a man with an ax. In somewhat of a contrast to his perfectly controlled and measured steps, Rinehart flits about the screen in a babydoll dress with a doe-eyed mask that gives her a childlike quality that only adds to the eeriness of her actions. Much like the aforementioned The Strangers, perhaps the most haunting aspect of all of this is that we never really see their faces.
Alexander Payne once asked, “What is film-making but groping in the dark?” In They’re Inside, a group of friends turned wannabe filmmakers struggle to clasp onto love, their professional passions, and ultimately their lives. As the film is chock full of the poor decision-making that is requisite in a good Horror flick, there is some innate sarcasm in its wonderfully weird and haunting screenplay.
That said, let’s just be honest: far as Horror movies go, these days it is very hit or miss. If you are tired of slugging through the misses, let us kindly point you in the direction of They’re Inside and its delicious tension and murderous screams. It’s a guaranteed hit—with an ax to your face! Chilled and thrilled, Cryptic Rock gives They’re Inside 4.5 of 5 stars.
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