It’s What’s Inside (2024)

It’s What’s Inside Review

It’s What’s Inside (2024)

Growing “It’s What’s Inside” adds one more infernal Bachelor party to the list of those not worth attending. This time, a bunch of old college friends gather at a remote mansion, probably in the middle of nowhere either because you can’t hear anyone scream there or because nobody cares if they do. The rest is simple: people start dying one by one, and it doesn’t go exactly as we expect thanks to Greg Jardin‘s tightly wound but busily plotted debut feature.

That surprise is based on a nifty high-concept idea that though not entirely original has mostly been used for comedy rather than horror. The filmmakers want to keep this secret under wraps, which might be difficult if this grabby-jerky Sundance Midnight premiere starts spreading even half the “Talk to Me”-level buzz it seems designed for.

“It’s What’s Inside” doesn’t really get going until after an early exercise in failed role play on Shelby’s part (Brittany O’Grady). She puts on a wig and changes her personality somewhat vampy now, rather than overly cautious hoping to make her detached boyfriend Cyrus (James Morosini) look at her differently; or maybe just look at her period. But she catches him mid-masturbation over some laptop porn instead, which kind of ruins the mood.

They agree to have another talk about their sex life later and put things off until after they get through with Reuben’s (Devon Terrell) wedding weekend. So far so good.

The bridegroom says it all when he asks his guests early on “What are we doing here?” Some 15 minutes into “It’s What’s Inside,” and we’re right there with him only midway through Jardin’s film do we finally understand what he means by “here.” Shelby and Cyrus are joined by several other old university mates, including Nikki (Alycia Debnam-Carey), a blond glamazon with a vast online following for her right-on activism and acai-bowl snaps; Brooke (Reina Hardesty) and Maya (Nina Bloomgarden), who are also at the house, though perhaps not literally “in” it; golden boy turned tattooed try-hard Dennis (Gavin Leatherwood); and Forbes (David Thompson), an eighth invitee no one has confirmed will actually show up.

Forbes has been out of touch since he dropped out of college in ways that were more than controversial they involved some particularly cruel behavior toward Dennis. But he’s made good since then: Rumor has it that this Silicon Valley type is now so rich, powerful and self-important, he’s about to buy the very air on which one breathes. Late to his own party as always, he arrives carrying a briefcase-sized chip on his shoulder and, in his hand luggage, the latest mind-warping gadget from his ever-changing tech empire.

This time last year we were swooning over “The Blazing World,” Jardin’s stylish short film that played Sundance after being commissioned as the music video for rock band Lola Rising. The excitement around that project was mostly focused on how sexily it showcased Jardin’s unique visual style but what really impressed were its storytelling chops. This far-more ambitious feature debut confirms him as a writer-director with plenty of ideas and even more energy to burn.

Though still firmly in genre territory, there’s something tantalizingly original about “It’s What’s Inside,” even aside from its tightly concealed premise. For much of its running time, the film plays like an eight-person chamber piece think Robert Altman adapting Agatha Christie by way of Neil LaBute or Donald Margulies. The talk gets pretty incestuous among these largely estranged friends as layers are incrementally peeled back, and the tension ratchets up at a steady pace.

Together, they behave as anyone in the movies does when a mysterious stranger slightly aloof, promising to show them a new reality comes along: They drink and dive. “It’s What’s Inside” doesn’t stand up to close reading in its first act, but Jardin rushes through that to get to the busy hedonism of the second, where defenses are quickly shattered (without giving too much away) and lines are crossed and traded. Shelby and Cyrus’ already brittle relationship undergoes what amounts to an accelerated round of group therapy under glaring lights; hidden motivations and desires bob up rudely.

This neon-lit social anarchy is all conducted by Jardin with vim and vigor, not sparing his characters or his audience the necessary cruelty of the conceit but also punctuating things with the kind of loud, fizzy caricature comedy that powered Halina Reijn’s similarly structured 2022 horror “Bodies Bodies Bodies.” The result is coolly diverting: The story keeps cranking up panic and surprise upon itself even though it’s too thin for us to care deeply about these people’s vulnerabilities or even keep track of who they’re pretending to be at any given moment. Stabs at social-media satire aimed at both Nikki’s virtuous wellness brand and Reuben’s exhaustively hashtagged wedding plans are funny enough but easy; they glide over more profound human frailties.

But still, Jardin seems to approach this tale much as smirking interloper Forbes appears to crash the party: As an agent of chaos out solely to stir things up. On those terms, “It’s What’s Inside” works nicely as a calling card for a genre filmmaker; it looks great (cinematographer Eli Arenson bathes everything in lurid reds), moves fast (editor Mercedes Arturo spikes scenes with jolting jump cuts) and boasts bold performances from actors unafraid to be pretty pawns in an intricate narrative game of chess. Any studio in need of a flashy stylist for pliable horror material should get him on the phone, though one wishes that future projects might build on this debut’s occasional flickers of interest in darker, more twisted human concerns.

Watch It’s What’s Inside For Free On Gomovies.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top