He’s Out There – review (Netflix)

    Laura (Yvonne Strahovski), along with her daughters, Kayla and Maddie (real-life sisters Anna and Abigail Priowsky) are going to stay at a lake house, getting away from the city for the weekend. Her husband, Shawn (Justin Bruening) is delayed and promises to meet them later that night. The three ladies go ahead. 

   Reaching the lake house, Laura has trouble unlocking the gate to the path that leads to the house. Owen (Julian Bailey), a creepy local, comes to her aid, unlocking the gate for her. Laura thanks him and heads to the house. At the house, Laura settles in whilst the girls play outside. The girls see red string tied to trees and curious, follow where it leads. 

    Back at the house, Laura looks out of the window and cannot see them, her initial worry passes as she hears them coming up the front steps. Shawn calls. He is on his way and should be there later. Maddie is very quiet as Laura puts the two girls to bed. She notices that Maddie is a little feverish, but leaves them both to sleep. 

    Kayla comes and tells her mother that Maddie is acting strangely. When Laura goes to Maddie, the younger girl vomits and then is retching, trying to get something out of her throat. Laura pulls a small piece of cloth from her throat. It has a message on it: hello. 

    It turns out that earlier, when the girls followed the red thread in the woods, they came across a tea party set out, seemingly, just for them. There, Maddie ate a cupcake. That cupcake made her sick. They start hearing noises around the house. Laura decides to take the girls out of the house. She gets them into the car and jumps in and begins to back away from the house. She loses control of the vehicle as the wheels, which had all been detached from the car, fall off. 

     Shawn reaches the gate and finds it locked. He cannot get hold of Laura and sees a message attached to a red string: follow me. Shawn, thinking perhaps it’s his daughters playing, follows the string. He gets to a clearing where he finds a macabre tea party set up. He is killed by a masked man. 

    At the house, Laura has turned all the lights out and her daughters are terrified. The door knocks and they hear Shawn’s voice. The girls think it’s their dad and get excited. Laura goes to check and Shawn’s lifeless body falls from the roof. Laura rushes back into the house. 

   Owen comes to check on the house and Laura sees him. She tries to desperately get his attention, but even as he sees her, he cannot hear her through the window. She smashes the window and shouts to him just as the masked man kills him. 

   The three women are frantic now. Laura does not know what to do. The masked man snatches her from the house. The two sisters run. They find their mum in the boot of their dad’s car, but the masked man catches up with them and wounds Laura. The sisters run back into the house. The masked man comes and gets them. He knocks them out and takes them to his macabre tea party. As he is about to chop Kayla’s arm off, he hears music and goes to investigate.

    Laura has freed herself and attacks him with an axe. They fight and she kills him. She gets her daughters and they drive off. The masked man’s body disappears. The end. 

    Oh, please let this be the end! This film does not need, nor deserve, a sequel. He’s Out There, a most unimaginative title is a horror effort from the pen of Mike Scannell. It is not very good, in fact, it is quite rubbish. The remote house in the woods is hardly an original idea and will, no doubt, be used again. The same can be said for the masked psychopath, terrorising the occupants of the house. It is and will continue to be a well-worn device of horror.

   What is so bad in this film is the build-up and execution of the story. The build-up is suitably creepy if a little slow. It opens with Kayla reading from a book, a dark tale about darkness. Her reading is accompanied by images of the lake house, a crashed car and the bloody axe handle. Owen is then apologising for not being able to make the trip at the same time as the rest of the family, because of a sales commitment. 

    Twenty minutes into the film and nothing has happened, just a lot of ominous music. After that Maddy gets sick and all sense goes out of the window. The two sisters, having heard a sound, go into full panic. Laura, instead of saying it’s just an animal of some kind, grabs a massive kitchen knife from the knife block and then switches off the lights. Because one’s first thought would be there’s a madman around. 

    She then tries to run from, well, sound. They have not seen the masked man up to that point but still decides to take her daughters, in the dead of night, out of the house. Her husband being dead is a bit more of a red flag, but that does not occur until fifty minutes into the film. They still have not seen the masked man. 

     By this point, you are kind of hoping the young girls get snatched just to stop their incessant screaming. Even though the masked man has been killing everyone else, he grabs Laura and puts her in the boot of Shawn’s car. Why? Suppose someone has to save the day. 

    There is an irritating Pied Piper trend in the film. The two girls get lured to their mother by music because you would follow music if you were terrified. Of course, you would. And the masked man is undone by following the sound of a music box in the climax. Nonsense. 

    He tells a story of watching the family over the years – his name is John if you care – and planning, watching. No real reason, just that there is no happiness, only darkness. Alright then. 

    The directing, by Quinn Lasher, is okay, with even a few jump scares, it is a horror film after all. The colour palette of the film is a little odd though. It has a slight green hue and is slightly overexposed, making all the whites in the film super bright. 

   A horror film should either be visually scary or mentally challenging. He’s Out There is neither. The acting is more irritating than bad, possibly due to the bad direction and the constantly whining girls.

Ultimately, the film makes very little sense and it is difficult to feel a vested interest in any of the characters. He’s Out There – another lazy title – is not good. I not sure it’s terrible, but as a horror film, it is very poor. Give it a miss. 

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