Directed by Kelly Smith
Distributed by Image Entertainment
You’d think by now people would stop vacationing in remote cabins in the forest, but alas, it seems no one told the characters in Image Entertainment’s latest slasher flick Don’t Let Him In or we wouldn’t have a story to speak of here.
In Don’t Let Him In a trip to the English countryside ends terribly (as expected) for four travelers after they mistakenly take in an injured stranger who may or may not be “The Tree Surgeon” – a local serial killer that has been plaguing the area with his vicious crimes. And while co-writer and director Kelly Smith’s slow-boiling thriller definitely hearkens back to classic genre entries like When A Stranger Calls or even Friday the 13th, the film ends up suffering right out of the gate by never quite getting the audience on board with the story as it unfolds.
At the beginning of Don’t Let Him In, we are immediately introduced to four terribly unlikable characters: a cold and uncaring couple named Paige and Calvin (Linfield, Meredith), Calvin’s slutty and flaky sister, Mandy (Harvey), and her irritable and dickish one-night stand Tristan (Alexander), who we discover only goes on the trip to escape the authorities for some unknown crime.
At this point, though, you’ll be so thoroughly annoyed that by the time they reach the cabin, you’ll pray for some dark hero to come and kill off our leading foursome, if for nothing else but to save you from any further suffering of Smith’s efforts here. Trouble does arrive, and they ‘let him in’ of course so that things can finally get under way, but what follows ends up being a tedious back-and-forth between two potential killers as the hapless and one-dimensional female cast members must decide whom to trust.
Unfortunately, that sounds like a bit of a mystery, but none is to be found here. Smith plainly shows us the first killer (and pretty much gives away the second from minute one) by showing us who they are during the film’s first murder. If you’re trying to set up a mystery, why blow your wad early on in the second act? Riddle me that, Batman.
Don’t Let Him In‘s plot aims to unsettle the audience and keep them on guard, and admittedly, it does so quite well so I’ll give Smith that much; unfortunately, we then are subjected to seeing our lead characters acting way too nonsensical – even by horror movie standards – making decisions so naïve and absurd that they distract the viewer and break the tension.
The actors try hard (despite the thin material they’re given) and are undoubtedly skilled, but frankly, their performances in Don’t Let Him In feel a bit ‘stage-y’, like we’re watching a college play perhaps. The only real standout is Hazeldine, who plays the mysterious stranger Shawn, who just completely lets go of reality and feels like he actually lives in the batshit crazy world of a serial killer every day with his performance. Sadly, he wasn’t enough of a presence to make up for the rest of the cast.
There are a lot of logic flaws in Don’t Let Him In that end up being much too egregious to forgive Smith and her co-writer Chris Andrews for. The ridiculous moments take over right around the time everyone shows up at the cabin and seriously weaken the credibility of the story to the point of turning the movie into a parody of itself. We see a jolly constable warn the foursome of a sexual deviant serial killer roaming the woods surrounding them who then happily trots off without a care in the world. (I don’t know- maybe work on finding this serial killer?)
Then there’s a young girl in the woods sketching a portrait of hanging body parts attached to a tree, and yet, she’s not even startled by the gruesome sight in the least bit (not to mention, she doesn’t even tell her teachers). We are also subjected to a pair of nurses who can’t tell the difference between a dead or live body and a critically injured man who’s up and about less than 12 hours later traversing through the woods like he was only suffering from a bee sting. Pure storytelling laziness all-around.
For the DVD release bonus features, we get an audio commentary with Smith, Andrews and co-producer Mike Mindel, which will only be of interest if you happen to really dig on the flick. There’s a behind-the-scenes featurette that is actually far more enjoyable than the movie as well as a “making-of” on the visual effects work of the flick and the trailer.
It’s clear Smith was trying something new with Don’t Let Him In by giving audiences a few twists and turns along the way, but sadly, the result ends up being a very unlikable and nonsensical slasher flick that borderlines parody far too closely (and not in a good way either) to ever be taken as seriously as Smith intended us to.
Don’t Let Him In is more than a title here; it’s what your DVD player will be saying if you end up checking out this underwhelming effort.
1 1/2 out of 5
3 out of 5
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