The Daily Stream: Surreal Suburban Nightmare This House Has People In It Is Adult Swim's Defining Gem

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Segment: "This House Has People In It" (2016)

The Show: "Infomercials"

Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max, YouTube, Adult Swim

The Pitch: You'll notice I added a section to our usual "Daily Stream" set-up for this one, so allow me to explain. Adult Swim — a network that is now reflexively mentioned when anyone brings up exciting surreal horror in 2022 — has an ongoing shorts series in which they give filmmakers free rein to reinterpret the infomercial style however they see fit. It's not always how you'd picture it — some of the shorts don't even resemble a conventional infomercial. But the series saw many experiments in the concept with varying results.

One of the most strangely successful of these experiments is comedian Alan Resnick's analog horror nightmare "This House Has People In It." The 11-minute short tells the story of a suburban family consisting of a mother, father, teenage daughter, young son, baby, and grandmother. The parents are prepping for their son's birthday party as their teen daughter, Madison, seemingly throws a tantrum-slash-protest by lying prone face-down on the kitchen floor. Soon, the family realizes that she's actually stuck in there — and seeping through the floorboards fast. Yeah, you read that right.

Why it's essential viewing

With an unconventional premise, the short purports itself to be something we haven't seen in horror before, and it is definitely different than anything in found footage. Told through surveillance camera footage that is seemingly monitoring the family for some kind of test study, the tone and concept of Resnick's suburban horror tale feel very unique. The specificity of the story — even with many details left out for the viewer to piece together — and Resnick's singularly strange sense of humor craft this weird parable into something utterly horrifying. Me, I had a hard time sleeping for a few days after my first watch.

A lot of what works in this story pulls from the brilliant and wacky performances just as much as the story, weird worldbuilding (what's Lynks Disease? Don't even ask), and the production design details. Robby Rackleff plays the family's patriarch and he is particularly effective in building the overall tension of the piece. His role couldn't be more crucial, and he meets the moment with a fierce intensity that really forces the audience to become intimately familiar with the terror this family is facing. In a past interview I did with Resnick, he told me that Rackleff — who is a member of the comedy group Wham City alongside Resnick and Cricket Arrison, who also appears in the short — mostly improved his role, which is honestly a bit of a marvel.

But wait, there's more...

It would be cool if this was just an 11-minute slice of good analog existential suburban horror. That would be completely acceptable and welcomed — but "This House Has People In It" is way more than that. It is actually over two hours of footage, text files, audio files, and a computer game in the form of an ARG (alternate reality game) that can be uncovered by decoding passwords necessary to unlock the footage through the website of AB Solutions, the fake surveillance company monitoring the family in the short. It's a treasure trove of a story because, believe it or not, the events of the short actually happen smack dab in the middle of the overall narrative ... which leaves a lot of questions with the viewer should they decide to dig deeper into what exactly is going on in this house. And trust me, you'll want to dig, even if it scares you. And it will scare you.