Director: Quinn Lasher
Cast: Yvonne Strahovski, Anna Pniowsky, Abigail Pniowsky
Watch He’s Out There online in the UK: iTunes / Amazon Instant Video
Shockingly derivative and blatantly stealing from way superior films such as The Babadook (2014), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Halloween (1978), He’s Out There (2018) is 80 or so minutes of your life you won’t ever get back. Think about that before you see it. The guy hired to helm the venture – Dennis Illiadis – took his name off the picture, leaving the film credited to the mysterious-sounding Quinn Lasher (it’s the new Alan Smithee, folks). This review is therefore equivalent to horror cinema’s old man at the gas station telling the group of kids to stay on the main road and do not take the short cut to their destination. In other words: you’ve been warned.
Laura (Yvonne Strahovski) is travelling to her lakeside cabin with sprogs Maddie (Abigail Pniowsky) and Kayla (Anna Pniowsky). Husband Owen (Julian Bailey) is running late, leaving the three women incredibly vulnerable to the psycho lurking in the woods by the house. Almost immediately upon arrival, things are off and John (said psycho) begins to play funny games with the trio, such as leaving creepy-looking dolls around the property, poisoned cupcakes and pieces of red string leading into woodland.
John’s modus operandi is that of a trickster, but he ups the ante each time and, before you can scream ‘axe murderer’, Laura, Maddie and Kayla are fighting for their lives in a series of routine set pieces you’ve seen a million times before and executed far better. It’s also the type of film where characters enter dark rooms and fail to flick the light switch. This genre staple – more a very tired cliché – when done correctly and with a certain logic, is permissible and effective. Here, it comes to symbolise the film: lazy, stupid and uninventive. The piece de resistance – on the stupidity front – is Laura screaming for her life from a bedroom window, at a neighbour who’s just randomly shown up on the property, and he can’t understand what she’s shouting about. The window lock is conveniently jammed, too. Instead of smashing it to smithereens, as any sane person desperate to escape a manic would, she delays and delays … until axe-wielding John has time to creep up behind him.
The use of a creepy children’s book called Darkness Hides – telling the story of a plucky mouse and a crow which casts a large shadow over the rodent – is hackneyed and a blatant steal from The Babadook. The bursts of nursery rhyme Knick Knack Paddy Wack on the soundtrack don’t make a lick of sense, either. Then there’s John and numerous questions about the reasons for his actions. Where did John get the book? Where does he live? Why is he so obsessed with this house and the families that live in it? Why does he sport a dead skin mask? Did he steal it from Slipknot’s tour bus, one time when they were in town? None of these questions are answered and frankly it’s hard to care or worth time pondering. He’s Out There is a great pun-like title for a horror movie, but the title is as good as it gets.