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LET US IN (2021)
Directed by Craig Moss.
Written by Craig Moss, Joe Callero.
Starring Makenzie Moss, O’Neill Monahan, Tobin Bell, Lauren Stamile, Siena Agudong, Sadie Stanley, Conor Husting, Mackenzie Ziegler, Chris Gartin, Darin Heames, Yasmeen Fletcher, Flor de Maria Chahua, Sky Alexis, Eric Callero, Heidi Kramer, Seneca Paliotta, Dan Sachoff, Heather Ann Gottlieb, Kimberly Blair, Andreas Orrego, Emily Rued, Aiden Bertisch
Emily (Makenzie Moss) and Christopher (O’Neill Monahan) are a pair of youngsters working on a science project to make contact with aliens. They live in a sleepy small town where everyone knows everyone’s business. This small town also has a dark secret where twelve children disappeared years ago and were never seen again. Now kids are starting to disappear again, and when Emily crosses paths with a group of black-eyed children in hoodies, she believes they are the culprits behind the disappearances. When some kids closer to Emily begin disappearing, she and her junior investigator in crime Christopher head over to the house of the local creepy old man, Mr. Moss (played by go-to creepy old man Tobin Bell). It is there they learn the horrifying story of the black-eyed children, who or what they are, and how to defeat them. But it’s going to take the kind of guts only a fourteen year old girl and her twelve year old sidekick has in order to defeat them!
Now despite that sarcastic description, I enjoyed LET US IN. While I hate the title which combines popular horror films Jordan Peele’s US with LET ME IN (the LET THE RIGHT ONE IN remake), the film manages to be much more original than the title suggests. To my knowledge, there hasn’t really been a black-eyed children film (I guess, one might consider THE CHILDREN and the modern remake a version of it). The black-eyed children is a relatively new urban myth about youngsters who knock on doors and terrorize the neighborhoods. They may be ghosts, other dimensional beings, or just aliens. This film attempts to answer the question and it does have ties to Emily and Christopher’s invention that attempts to communicate into deep space. With horror really wearing out the classic monsters, it’s fun to see a new kind of monster used.
LET US IN is a harmless little horror film geared toward what used to be the GOOSEBUMPS and FEAR STREET crowd, which in nostalgic terms is the audience films like EXPLORERS and THE GATE were intended for. It had kids in genuinely dangerous situations and didn’t really play it safe when it comes to scary moments or terrifying scenes. LET US IN has quite a few scenes that impressed me. It’s not gory, but one death in particular is quite shocking. The motivation of the black-eyed kids, to use the abducted children to restock the alien’s slave camps, is surprisingly dark and twisted and a bit more demented than one I would have thought this film was capable of.
LET US IN is one of those films that acts as a power fantasy for kids, reminding me of Tobe Hooper’s INVADERS FROM MARS, where adults are absent minded idiots, listening intently to the children in times of distress. Emily and Christopher are able to do what NASA and SETI aren’t able to accomplish and communicate with deep space aliens. These kids are running the show, rambling off orders to teachers, reporters, and the police. This kind of power fantasy is fun and I’m sure if you have a pre-teen who has a ghoulish side, they would totally be into it and LET US IN would be an appropriate and fun little horror movie to watch with them.
The acting is solid as well. THE UNICORN’s Makenzie Moss is a cute little thing with gigantic brown eyes, and carries most of the film on her own. She’s got a genuine, comfortable, and intelligent way to her and I’m sure she will grow up to be a great actress. I found her sidekick Christopher (O’Neill Monahan) to be a little annoying, but he was a decent little actor as well providing some fun goofy scenes to lighten the mood. The rest of the young cast all played their parts well. And of course, Tobin Bell, was Tobin Bell, which is exactly what he was hired to do.
LET US IN isn’t a trailblazing or groundbreaking horror film. But it is one of the few horror films geared towards children that I was able to tolerate from beginning to end. If you have a young ghoul in your life or just want to get in touch with your inner young ghoul, LET US IN qualifies nicely.