Hollywood always gets accused of making too many superhero movies, but the real problem is all the potboilers. Another moody suburban thriller about cheating housewives, missing children and murdered neighbours seems to pop up every other week on streaming platforms. Though for every Gone Girl, Before I Go To Sleep and The Girl On The Train there’s a Brazen, The Woman In The Window and The Voyeurs. Sometimes steamy, usually twisty, and always smelling faintly of the revolving book racks in your local charity shop, the endless scroll of late-night mum-mystery thrillers are ripe for a takedown. Enter The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window.
Knowing that most of us actually enjoy a good dumb thriller as much as we sometimes like to pretend we don’t, Netflix’s brilliantly self-effacing comedy series is perfectly pitched between satire and suspense. It’s a show for everyone who loves to hate a good page-turner.
“There are so many layers to a casserole… just like there are so many layers to a person,” says Anna (Kristen Bell), a character who seems to have been based entirely on Bo Burnham’s ‘White Woman’s Instagram’. Pouring wine up to the rim, painting awful still life canvases and endlessly baking casseroles, she’s a deliberate cliché – a well-played parody in a deadpan comedy full of brilliantly underplayed jokes. Anna lives alone (her daughter has been murdered, her husband has moved on) and she spends her nights staring out the window, quietly slipping into a wine coma because she’s too scared to leave the house whenever it rains.
When a hunky new Brit (Tom Riley, Modern Life Is Rubbish) moves in across the street, Anna takes notice. When his girlfriend (Shelley Hennig, Teen Wolf) stumbles to the window with her throat slit, Anna starts playing detective. Did she just witness a grisly murder, or is she just really, really drunk all the time?
Trim a couple of words from the title and downplay a handful of jokes and the show could almost pass as another generic thriller – with Bell deadpanning so perfectly through every insane twist and turn that it almost seems serious. The genius of The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window is in just how subtly takes the piss – so rarely leaning into comedy that real fans of Friday-night thrillers might not even realise they’re supposed to laugh at half the time.
There’s a great running joke about casseroles (and Anna’s corny narration is hilarious), but the rest of the comedy is played as straight and delicate as possible, aimed so pointedly at specific genre tropes that the writers must have spent months binge-watching every thriller going.
There’s the handyman who spends days fixing a mailbox, just because he seems like a background prop that should be there. The corny titles of prop books. The very-slightly rubbish artwork. The slight over-earnestness of all the bad dialogue. As much as the show delights at poking fun at the genre, it’s also clearly in love with it. Each episode cleverly follows comedy logic to tell a neat little 8-part thriller of its own that’s genuinely twice as gripping as most of the movies it’s skewering.
With a vibe somewhere between Only Murders In The Building and every moody thriller you’ve ever felt like you had to watch the ending of – The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window pours out equally big glasses of snark and reverence to make a comedy potboiler that never spills over. Nothing’s left hanging after the brilliantly bonkers finale but hopefully we’ll get a second season to dig into before too long. There’s still so much left to make fun of…
- Director: Michael Lehmann
- Starring: Kristen Bell, Tom Riley, Shelley Hennig
- Release date: January 28 (Netflix)
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