Don’t Let Him In (Kelly Smith, 2011) Review

Don't Let Him Inby Jason Lees,

You have slasher films, and you have thrillers. A good slasher film can have huge gaps in logic if the killer is fun and the body count high. If the film is about the gasp, then it’s a slasher film. If there is a focus on acting and plot—hey, don’t walk away, that’s important stuff, too—then you’re looking at a thriller. Both types of films can just as high an amount of on screen carnage, but it’s their different approaches that put them in different categories, and thereby get them judged by different standards. Think of it as film school profiling. It may not be fair, but it keeps us safe in these dangerous times of random Netflixing and blind purchasing.

Kelly Smith’s “Don’t Let Him In,” unfortunately, tries to be both slasher film AND thriller. Now, this can work, but it’s rare, and while the flick succeeds more than it fails, it ends up not really satisfying either subgenre’s followers.

We get a good old fashioned slasher plot of friends (albeit one of them being a newbie) going off for a weekend of fun n’ alcohol at a cabin. The only thing different here is that it’s a cottage and not a cabin, but that’s because the film’s set in the UK. Those of us that now permanently see all horror movies with British accents as the next “Shaun of the Dead” are going to have a problem right here. This is much more along the lines of an early Danny Boyle work than an Edgar Wright, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

We get our four leads out for a weekend that’s more about blowing off stress than partying. That’s a nice change of pace. Rather than screaming horniness (a proud American tradition) we get to see a group that really just needs to relax. Being English is damned stressful, so they need those cottages to escape to for a way to cope; the only problem is that the woods that now surround them have secrets. Just like the secrets they bring with them.

Rather than a masked killer picking them off (an even prouder American tradition, even when they’re wearing Canadian hockey masks), we get a little cloak and dagger guess the killer games that comes off more Italian than English. It’s text book stuff, with misdirects and some above average jump scares that never come off forced, even if they do rely too much on the crashing soundtrack to get their jumps.

I’m deliberately keeping this vague, because there are lots of good surprises and turns here, but they’re not the type that will click with you if you’re looking for them. This isn’t a thinking movie, but it’s not dumb. It’s a very visual flick, with some really great looking camerawork and damned sharp editing. Not flashy in any way, but the kind of well done and smart construction that shows a respect for both the genre and the audience. Director Kelly Smith and crew have done their homework and delivered the goods with more than enough scares and gore to satisfy the slasher requirements, but you get the sense they were setting out to do more with this one.

For me, a slasher film is nothing to look down at, so at times “Don’t Let Him In” seemed to be a little self loathing, but maybe I’m just sensitive to my fave genre. Regardless, we’re treated here to some talent on and behind the cameras, but it’s almost like a tease. Next time up, I’m betting they really nail it. There’s a lot to appreciate here, and it comes so damned close at times, but just off by a hair or two. A few less lapses in logic and a little more character development would’ve raised this to full blown thriller status and cleared that all up. A little more blood and few more rolling heads and it could’ve been the slasher film to beat this season. As it is, it’s fun stuff that gets your heart racing a few times and has some good gross moist moments. That’s going to have to be enough for me for now.

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