He’s Out There, 2018.
Directed by Quinn Lasher.
Starring Yvonne Strahovski, Anna Pniowsky, Abigail Pniowsky, Julian Bailey, Justin Bruening, and Ryan McDonald.
A mother and her two daughters are stalked by a psychopath during a visit to their holiday home.
The current home invasion renaissance continues with He’s Out There, the latest movie from The Last House on the Left director Dennis Iliacus, or is it? As you can see the credited director is Quinn Lasher and the film has been in limbo after being sat on the shelf since its original release date of December 2017 – when Iliadis was the credited director – so something has been going on behind the scenes. Whatever has happened, it is here now and in a year that has given us such home invasion titles as The Strangers: Prey at Night, Incident in a Ghostland, Death Wish and Hell is Where the Home Is it will take something pretty special to stand out in an increasingly saturated market.
And is He’s Out There something special? Well, not really but there is plenty of merit here as Laura (Yvonne Strahovski – The Predator) and her two young daughters Kayla and Mandie (real life sisters Anna and Abigail Pniowski) go on vacation to their holiday cottage in the woods. Dad Shawn (Justin Bruening – Grey’s Anatomy) is a few hours behind and so until he arrives the three females of the family are left alone to set things up but unfortunately for them they are not alone as John, a former resident of their house, is watching from the woods and looking to make a family of his own after he was abandoned by his parents when he was a child.
What He’s Out There does correctly is set a tone very early on using a child’s voiceover to tell a story and as the film progresses the fairy tale motifs come thick and fast, such as the two sisters following a trail into the forest left by John, echoing Hansel & Gretel. It is a little heavy-handed at times and you do get to a point where you wonder where it is going but there is a payoff to all of the child-like touches as when Shawn arrives at the house in the middle of the night he has his own trail to follow, the results of which kick the film into a higher (and gorier) gear and set off the action to a final act which sees the Pniowski sisters initially annoying performances start to transform into very believable expressions of terror. John himself is an interesting character, with a distinctive look and a backstory that could have done with being translated with a little more detail but there’s enough to keep things moving along.
However, like a lot of home invasion-style slashers there is only so much you can do with the material on a limited budget and while He’s Out There does feel a bit higher in quality than most it does lack any real style or flair. The choice of colour grading the film to look like a mid-2000s torture porn movie is an odd one, the washed-out colours and high contrast a bit distracting at times, and while John does have a Jason Voorhees/Victor Crowley-style backstory worth exploring, the tight 85-minute running time and budgetary constraints dictate that this film isn’t going to give you anything more than the bare minimum.
Ultimately, He’s Out There is a good home invasion/slasher movie but not a great one. It contains all the tropes and hits the right beats without deviating from the template or bringing anything new to the table. It is a better movie than The Strangers: Prey at Night in as much as it has a plot, a bit of an explanation for why the killer is doing what he is doing and performances that are genuinely distressing in places but by the time the Halloween-esque ending comes around you cannot shake the feeling that you’ve seen this all before. Despite that, though, He’s Out There never feels like a chore to sit through and that in itself is quite pleasing.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★