Written by: Kelly Smith, Chris Andrews
Directed by: Kelly Smith
Starring: Sophie Linfield, Sam Hazeldine and Gordon Alexander
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
What if you invited a serial killer on holiday?
Most slasher movies come equipped with at least one soothsayer that intones impending doom for the band of idiots who are heading off somewhere with a sordid history, where they will no doubt do stupid things they shouldnít do. Donít Let Him In has not one, but two of these, plus a foreboding ďDonítĒ title that no doubt wonít be heeded by the characters. So, thereís a spoiler right off the bat I guess: in Donít Let Him In, they do, in fact let him in, which should come as a surprise to no one who has seen five dozen (or even just five) of these things.
The only question is who the title refers to; our main quartet is headed off to a woodsy retreat (the first indicator that theyíre all going to die) and are led by Paige (Sophie Linfield) and Calvin (Rhys Meredith), a nice couple who have been together for a while. Tagging along is Calvinís sister, Mandy (Gemma Harvey) and her new, shady boyfriend (and suspect number one), Tristan (Gordon Alexander). Along the way, they ignore a hitchhiker (suspect number two) and bump into a gypsy girl (doom prophet number one/suspect number three) who tells them theyíre all going to die; she is also summarily ignored, and the group arrives to their cabin without issue. They arenít there for long before a cop shows up and reveals the sordid history of the place--apparently a guy named The Tree Surgeon roams the woods, carves people up, then hangs them in the tree, and thereís little doubt that least 3/4th of the cast will end up in that position by the end of the movie.
Nothing too noteworthy happens in the interim--Calvin and Paige are the nice, stable couple to the more combustible Mandy and Tristan before the aforementioned hitchhiker shows up bloodied and beaten. Of course, they let him in (oops!), and it seems maybe a little too obvious that they shouldnít have; Donít Let Him In isnít just routine--I wouldnít be surprised if the script turned out to be a page from one of those paint by numbers books. Fill in here for the ďcell-phone difficultiesĒ plot beat; fill in over here for the baffling character decision that unnecessarily prolongs the movie. On that last note, the flick seemingly seems like itís at a dead end--the killer is locked outside, safely away from the remaining victims, but (surprise!) one of the ditzy girls lets him back in. Itís such a shockingly transparent illogical moment that the director might as well announce that you leave your brain hanging in a tree.
Even the killerís mythology isnít all that compelling, though his backstory is aided by a ridiculous moment. As the sheriff explains the local lore, the film flashes back to a previous scene involving a teacher taking her art class out to the woods to sketch some landscapes. One of the girls is drawing this horrific picture of mangled bodies, much to the teacherís dismay; she expectedly chides the student, who casually points to a nearby tree, which is currently housing a mangled body. This is such an absurd moment that seemingly sets up a wacky, absurd slasher romp, so itís disappointing to see this go down the serious-as-a-heart-attack set-Ďem-up-slash-Ďem-down routine. Even this wouldnít be so bad if Kelly Smith had any inspired kill sequences to play with; instead, we have routine throat-slashings, barbed-wire strangling, and some stabbing sequences that are choppily shot and tightly framed (basically, you can tell someone is being stabbed).
Thereís actually another twist waiting towards the end, seemingly there to rescue the film from its previously monotonous events, but even this is terribly telegraphed. Again, the story hits another dead-end, only you know itís not over simply because thereís too much time left (though it should be noting that one of the filmís saving graces is its brisk 79 minute runtime). The turn of events only manages to confound and muddle things even more, and weíre treated to a dour final act that trades in the woodsy cabin for a grungy, grime-filled industrial setting that can only signify one thing: torture, both in the form of actual physical torment and the killer revealing his worn-out platitudes about why heís compelled to kill and whatnot. In other words, youíre transported from one overexposed horror locale to another, and Donít Let Him In adds nothing to either mode.
Indeed, this is worn-out stuff through and through; itís not that Donít Let Him In is an altogether terrible film--Smith establishes some moody, even atmospheric shots early on, particularly the fog-drenched forest. However, thereís just no transcending the script, which leaves little room for surprises--if you donít have the killer figured out (which you should), you still canít wait for them to finally show up, just so something will actually happen. If you havenít seen any movies like this, then you might be moderately intrigued, but anyone whoís been down this road before will find it forgettable. Itís been less than 24 hours since Iíve seen it, and Iíve already forgotten most of it, save for the fact that itís ďDonítĒ title actually applies to the movie. So give it credit where itís due--thereís actually a few instances where there is a guy who should not be let in (this is contrary to the likes of Donít Open the Door and Donít Look in the Basement, which have plenty of doors and basements that donít really figure into the films). Anyway, Image Entertainment released this recently on DVD, and itís a solid release, with an anamorphic transfer and a loud and clear 5.1 track. Extras are pretty abundant, as you get a 40 minute making-of feature, a commentary with Smith, a short look at the visual effects, and a trailer. As rote and routine as they come, this is one to let into your rental queue at best. Rent it!
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