Adult Swim released This House Has People In It, a short film special as part of its Infomercials block, at 4 a.m. on March 14th. The special is stylized as security footage taken in a middle-class home. The family living in the house — including a father, mother, teenage sister, little brother, baby, and a grandma — argue and watch television while prepping for a birthday party. Around the 4-minute mark, it becomes obvious that something horrific is happening in the house, though there are several clues leading up to the reveal: the teen girl, named Madison, isn’t just lying on the kitchen floor and pouting. She’s sinking through the floor, and can’t respond to her parents.
Monsters lurk in the house, while a an unidentified creature stalks a deer outside. The grandmother watches a television special about pottery, and the host says at one point, clay should feel “wet like, like, uh, like a warm body, like the inside of a body”. Later on, the baby escapes the house and wanders off, undetected by the camera. At face value, the Adult Swim special is a fantastic bit of contemporary horror. It recalls all the low-fi dread and false-found-footage style of Todd Haynes’s Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, which spun the true story of musician Karen Carpenter’s anorexia and death through purposefully gritty-looking scenes acted out with Barbie dolls.
Filmmakers have long been entranced by found footage and family drama. The combination was used most effectively in Jonathan Caouette’s 2003 film Tarnation, in which Caouette analyzed his mother’s mental illness with old home movies. In fact, if Alan Resnick, director of This House Has People In It isn’t following Caouette’s filmography, it would be surprising. This House sets its tone using the characteristically dramatic irony of found footage film. We see things in the house that the characters can’t, and we are linked, throughout the film, to the unfeeling eye of the house’s security camera. It zooms in on moving stimuli, assumedly not controlled by any character — and its blank voyeurism adds to the film’s effective horror.
Though This House only premiered two days ago, the internet has already ransacked much of its multi-media mythology. Resnick previously released several House teasers, and the website for the fake surveillance company is a treasure trove of links and emails from the film’s characters. If a user tries to login to the surveillance website and clicks “Forgot password?”, they’re prompted to email the company to request a new one. The password “sadday” unlocks emails which include text like:
Hello, My name is Jackson xxxxxxxx and I live in xxxxxxx, xx I am the biggest Boomy the Cat fan in my neighborhod or at school. I have seen all the TV episodes at least 3 times and I have seen the movies 10 times. As you can see, I am a seryous. I can sing the Boomy the Cat song from memory. My favorite color is blue, but I love Boomy so much I call it Boomy Blue.
I wanted to ask something because I cant bring it up to my family. Is Boomy real? I know he is a cartoon, but there has been several times I think I have seen him near or aound my house. Its hard to say cause he runs very fast, but there have been several times when I am pretty sure I aw him. We have a lot of deers in our backyard and I like to watch them, but recently it looks like something is chasing them around and I am pretty sure it is Boomy. I am really excited to find out.
The fake website for The Sculptor’s Clayground, which the grandma in This House is watching, describes something called Lynks Disease and suggests it might be related to clay; the aforementioned emails suggest the clay was purchased by a family member from This House.
Adult Swim fans on the network’s subreddit have noted similarities between This House, Resnick’s earlier project Unedited Footage of A Bear, and the fake Claridryl website: Human bodies phasing through walls and monitoring a house with security footage.
Though the mystery of the film is still unraveling, it’s clear that Adult Swim is working to establish itself as a multimedia voice in dark comedy and horror. Though many will compare This House to Adult Swim’s last complex special, Too Many Cooks, a more apt comparison would be to V/H/S or Southbound. Both horror film experiences ask viewers to become active researchers and analysts in order to unlock new scares.