Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Kelly Smith
Cast: Sophie Linfield, Sam Hazeldine, Gordon Alexander
Kelly Smith’s Don’t Let Him In is billed as little more (emphasis on the psychological elements of the pic have definitely been highlighted in the media) than a contemporary slasher film. Given the genuine crux and overall complexity of the tale, I think that is a poor misrepresentation. The slasher sub-genre appeals to a niche market that many feel stands on flimsy legs, yet here we’re dealing with a film that slasher fans can embrace, just as psychological horror fans can… just as anyone in search of a quality flick can – for that matter. There’s nothing cut and dried about the film, and that’s an embraceable quality.
Initially, I think Smith and co-writer Chris Andrews really want viewers to believe they’re about to enter into the typical world of slasher insanity with a masked menace stalking desolate forest trails. Early cliché dialogue and predictable setups clearly indicate that that was the intention. I’ll be the first to tell you, the deceptive tactic works. We’ve got what looks to be the sure bet red herring, a trip to a desolate country house locale and all the typical challenges victims run into during a slasher: no phone reception, the big strong men are eliminated early; “survivor girl” is so obvious it’s ridiculous. There are a multitude of shallow expectations put into motion. And then the momentum shifts in significant fashion.
The first 50 minutes of the film feel more like a ploy than an ascent to chaos. It’s all one big trick that effectively leaves viewers aloof (because it seems so damn predictable!). I won’t dare give away any major spoilers, but I’ll say this, you will not get the typical backwoods slasher film you’ll expect after reading the disc’s synopsis. We’ve got clever filmmakers at work who knew to throw a curveball few could clip, and everyone would take notice of.
Speaking of the filmmaking itself, there’s some interesting technical work on display. The cinematography is generally quite crisp and clean. However, we’re treated to a few unique distance and angle shots that go a long way in illuminating weakness, which is interesting considering most horror films tend to receive the upward angle to emphasize power. Don’t Let Him In works in almost an opposite fashion. There are a few pans that feel as though they’ll lead to nice reward, but sharp cutaways kill the suspense rather than punctuate the technique. Just like the story itself, the film is remarkably interesting for many different reasons, and we’re never completely certain of what waits around the next corner.
There’s a solid cast at work here, but the true respect must be dished upon Sophie Linfield and Sam Hazeldine who portray polar opposites, but work quite well together. Truth be told – Gordon Alexander does a bang up job of creating near palpable tension during simple dialogue scenes and all in all, there really are no weak links in the ensemble, which definitely adds to the enjoyment of the picture.
At just 79 minutes, Don’t Let Him In is a well-paced flick that has its flaws, but also emits a very strange charm. Oddly enough it almost seems as though this film is destined to be misinterpreted, though I’m not convinced that is a fair fate. There are some bright techniques applied to this production, but I’m not certain the nearly inevitable wink at the camera will be enough to tip viewers off: look beyond the surface, this is a multidimensional story with some noteworthy strengths.