The Movie Waffler New to Prime Video - LET US IN | The Movie Waffler

New to Prime Video - LET US IN

New to Prime Video - LET US IN
A young girl investigates the disappearance of teens in her hometown.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Craig Moss

Starring: Makenzie Moss, O'Neill Monahan, Tobin Bell, Sadie Stanley, Lauren Stamile

let us in poster

One of the effects of widespread adoption of the internet has been the rise of urban legends. The "creepypasta" phenomenon has spawned various modern riffs on classic legends, among them the "black-eyed children". These are said to be supernatural beings who resemble kids and teenagers, save for their inky black eyes and pale complexions.

Director Craig Moss explores this phenomenon with his cheesy but affable young adult horror movie Let Us In. Opening with a classic scene of teens making out in the woods, we're immediately introduced to the black-eyed brats, dressed in dark clothes and hoodies as they abduct the young lovers after posing the question "Will you let us in?"

let us in review

Let Us In may be concerned with a very modern phenomenon but its influences are most certainly of the 1980s variety. No doubt greenlit to cash in on the popularity of Netflix's Stranger Things, Moss's film refreshingly doesn't resemble The Goonies and its Amblin contemporaries so much as lower budgeted cult fare like The Monster Squad and Strange Invaders. Its young actors curse and cause trouble and find themselves in genuine peril, and it has the zippy pace of a 1930s poverty row programmer.

In classic '80s fashion we have a precocious young lead in 12-year-old Emily (Makenzie Moss). What gives the film some edginess is how Emily has a dark past that sees her shunned by her schoolmates. It's not until halfway through the movie that we learn what exactly Emily is meant to have done to become a social pariah, and when we witness the incident in a flashback it's a genuinely shocking moment.

let us in review

Emily and her 10-year-old science geek friend Christopher (O'Neill Monahan) are working on a school project to contact aliens (as you do at that age) and find themselves embroiled in the conspiracy of the black-eyed kids when the latter's older sister is abducted. This leads them to the doorstep of the town's resident creepy old dude (Tobin Bell), who has had prior dealings with the alien beings.

Moss is best known for directing a series of sub-Zucker Brothers parody movies with cringeworthy titles like The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It and 30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but in recent years he's turned towards the horror genre with 2016's The Charnel House and now Let Us In. On the evidence of his latest he's by no means a potential next John Carpenter. The suspense scenes are staged in the clunkiest of fashion, and they're often unintentionally laughable, especially when potential victims interact with the black-eyed villains as though they're just regular troublemaking kids, despite their vocoder altered voices and obviously alien appearance. The storytelling is a collection of genre clichés with scenes lifted straight from superior '80s thrillers.

let us in review

That said, a horror movie so cliché-ridden can sometimes create a cosy familiarity, and that's the case here. What Moss does best is evoke the feeling of a small town, and by the time the end credits roll we feel like we know every corner of the sunny hamlet Let Us In's not so effective scares play out in. Makenzie Moss (who I'm guessing is probably the director's daughter) and Monahan make for a charming young double act, with the latter a sort of bumbling Watson to her feisty Holmes on a motor-scooter.

Sure, Let Us In is objectively trash with all the aesthetic appeal of a Hallmark Original, but with its homey smalltown atmosphere and likeable young protagonists it just might function as a way to introduce younger viewers to the joys of the horror genre. I'll take its rough around the edges energy over the polished cynicism of Stranger Things any day.

Let Us In is on Prime Video UK now.