DVD Review: ‘Don’t Let Him In’

‘Too disorganized and silly to be taken seriously, even as escapist schlock.’

Devon Ashbyby Devon Ashby

Image Entertainment is releasing a new slasher flick from Britain this month called Don’t Let Him In, about a serial killer brutalizing hapless city people marooned in the rural wilderness. Despite a few calculated ironic twists and incongruously goofy violence, Don’t Let Him In unfortunately conforms way too closely to genre conventions, and is too disorganized and silly to be taken seriously, even as escapist schlock.

Don’t Let Him In chronicles the doomed weekend getaway of four grouchy yuppies who hate each other. Calvin and Paige are a dating couple, Mandy is Calvin’s underachieving younger sister, and Tristan is a guy Mandy picked up in a bar the night before. Despite requisite foreshadowing from a weird lady they encounter at a rest stop on the way to their vacation cottage, plus some ominous exposition from a pudgy, jovial police officer about an active serial killer loose in the area, the vacationers decide to hang around, even though they have no special plans, no reason for staying, and no clearly-defined obstacles standing in the way of their departure.

Things become even more outlandish when a terrified stranger named Shawn bursts into their cottage in the middle of the night, covered in blood and claiming to be the victim of a savage knife attack. Rather than rushing the poor jerk to a hospital and spending a sleepless night huddled in a nearby Motel 6, the quartet decide to stitch up the gaping wound in Shawn’s side themselves (Paige, conveniently, is a Registered Nurse) and keep him at the cabin with them for the rest of the weekend while he recovers, apparently without even informing the police.

Like most recent slasher movies, Don’t Let Him In is a whodunit, and dedicates itself from the start to purposefully casting suspicion on pretty much all of its characters. Some of the poor story choices initially seem like a transparent attempt to build up to a wacky ironic ending, but it becomes eventually clear that they’re just a product of sloppy writing. The characters are constantly making glaringly dumb choices and taking unnecessary risks, even by the standards of the genre. Technical improbabilities are also rife: cell phone reception, for example, is perfectly fine throughout the entire movie until a dead body turns up, and then suddenly no one can get reception anymore.

The DVD is relatively tricked out for such a minor release, which turns out to be a saving grace, since the special features are actually kind of interesting and informative. The director does an extended interview where he makes me feel really bad for trashing his movie because he seems like such a cool guy, and various technical people are also interviewed about things like the score and visual effects.

The movie has plenty of disgusting practical gore FX if that’s your main area of interest, but most of the jump-scares are badly timed and ineffective, and the awkward plotting and characterization make the scenes intended to develop the story feel plodding and dry. The movie is also totally sexless aside from a few cheeky references to Mandy’s habitual promiscuity, falling far short of the 1960’s Hammer classics the director cites as partial inspiration. A noble effort, maybe, considering the budget and time constraints, but unfortunately not recommendable.