Don’t Let Him In
by Jason Coffman
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The UK has turned out more than its share of solid low-budget horror films over the past decade, including some instant classics (like Christopher Smith’s Severance), some fresh takes on familiar material (see James Watkins’ Eden Lake), and plenty of basic slashers that defy audience expectations (such as Paul Andrew Williams’ The Cottage). However, for each interesting little horror film there are at least two dismal, unpleasant ones that may have clever ideas but are not well-executed. Don’t Let Him In is one of the latter.
Paige (Sophie Linfield) and Calvin (Rhys Meredith) are planning a weekend in the country with Tristan’s sister Mandy (Gemma Harvey), but plans are already off track when Mandy invites her one-night stand Tristan (Gordon Alexander) to join them. Tristan is obviously a hateful bastard, and his reasons for joining the weekend out of town are clearly sinister. Once the foursome reach the cottage, a local policeman explains to them that a serial killer dubbed “The Tree Surgeon” has been stalking the locals and hanging up parts of them from trees (hence the name), so he helpfully suggests that none of them take a walk in the woods at night.
Don’t Let Him In opens with a sequence showing Paige tied up and hidden away in the Tree Surgeon’s lair, so the audience can already guess that the vacationers probably didn’t take the officer’s advice. It’s only a matter of time before Paige falls victim to the Tree Surgeon, but who is he? Is he the blatantly evil Tristan? The seemingly normal Calvin? The hippie girl who warns them to go home? The hitchhiker with the stab wound who shows up at the cabin in the middle of the night? Perhaps the most pressing question of all is: Does the audience really care?
Sadly, I could not answer that question affirmatively. Don’t Let Him In did not grab my attention, and its dull characters did nothing to help. Each character is barely shaded in so the film can introduce them and knock them off in 79 minutes (including opening and closing credits), so it’s tough to muster much interest in their fate. When the Tree Surgeon is finally unmasked, the acting gets seriously over-the-top in a way that does not match the tone of the preceding events at all. There are a lot of solid low-budget thrillers coming out of the UK, and they’re worth seeking out, but Don’t Let Him In is not one of them.
Image Entertainment released Don’t Let Him In on DVD on 3 January 2012. Special features include a commentary track, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and a trailer.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and “The Crown International Files” for Criticplanet.org as well as contributing to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).
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