Genuinely creepy and a bit corny too, Let Us In is a fun sci-fi/horror that starts off strong, but doesn’t deliver in its third act.
Like many horror films, Let Us In professes to be based on a “true story”; in this case, the urban legend of the “black-eyed kids”: a group of teens in dark clothing with blacked-out eyes whose victims are never seen or heard from again. Twelve-year old Emily (Makenzie Moss) is an outsider in her small town. Still reeling from the death of her best friend, she is bullied incessantly by the other girls at her school. When local teenagers start to disappear, Emily and her friend Christopher (O’Neill Monahan) are determined to find out the truth.
Writer/director Craig Moss (of the Bad Ass series starring Danny Trejo) deftly blends classic science-fiction with elements of slasher and home-invasion horror. From the opening scene in which a teenage couple disappears from a local make-out spot to a DIY extraterrestrial communicator in a garage, Let Us In is filled with subtle (and some not-so-subtle) references to 1980’s science fiction and horror. The nostalgia is charming, rather than intrusive, and doesn’t get in the way of the plot or character development. The majority of the cast are very young, and there is a child-like innocence that pervades the story and fits nicely with the film’s thematic exploration of growing up and losing touch with dreams and imagination.
Josh Noyes’ editing really carried this film for me. While the story contains plot holes big enough to drive a truck through and the special effects look as though they were ripped straight from an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, the tightly cut chase sequences and jump scares lent a sense of polish and sophistication. I enjoyed the beginning of Let Us In a lot, but by the half-way point I felt a bit let down. The “black-eyed kids” aren’t super frightening, visually; there is only so much fear that a dark hoodie and pale skin can inspire in an audience. We see these villains so much that they start to feel laughable, rather than terrifying.
The jokes begin to get a bit grating as well. While I love a good horror-comedy, the humour in Let Us In is often ill-timed and comes at the expense of genuine moments of connection between characters. In horror, humour is part of a larger dance of tension. One of the ways that I recognize a great horror film is how it manipulates my feelings of suspense as a viewer, winding me up and then relieving those feelings of dread and suspense through the insertion of comedy (or music, or space, etc.). While the jokes in the film were funny in a juvenile way that fit with the characters and theme, they didn’t come at moments when they were needed. Instead of being part of a larger emotional dance, the comedy was just sort of there.
Viewers who like their horror bloody and R-rated will find little to turn their stomachs in Let Us In, but the film is a good reminder that horror need not be gritty or cynical to be worth viewing. Overall, this is a fun film that is a safe bet for squeamish audiences.
Do You Tweet? Follow These Tweeple:
Shannon Page: @ShannonEvePage