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LET HER OUT (15)
Director: Cody Calahan
Review: David Stephens
“Let Her Out” isn’t a badly delayed sequel to “Let Me In”, which might feature a young female vampire who just can’t make her bloody mind up. Instead it’s a supernatural-ish thriller that echoes the genre’s obsession with murderous female twins. Close sisters are never good news in horror films. Whether it’s the iconic Danny-scaring twins in “The Shining” (1980), Brian De Palma’s “Sisters” (1973), or Kim Jee-woon’s “A Tale of Two Sisters” (2003), it’s safe to say that you should always check on the sanity of your Sis or expect the odd corpse to turn up. Sometimes in movies, those “evil twins” turn out to be mere fabrications of the protagonist’s imagination, covering up psychotic tendencies. (NB: We won’t say which movies, because we’re not at home to Mr S.P. Oiler today) This brings us to LHO itself, a film co-written and directed by Cody Calahan, the Canadian filmmaker who made the social-media-zombie-apocalypse film “Antisocial” (2013) as well as its recent sequel. As the film is now available on DVD and VOD in the UK, YGROY answers the call and has a quick peek through the peephole before letting her in … or out … or whatever the Hell she wants…
It starts with a young woman who lives at the “Gemini Motel” (ooh, foreshadowing…), and partakes in blank-eyed money-for-sex sessions with punters, in order to secure her rent. During a busy night a shadowy figure approaches her room and ignores her statement that she’s “Closed for the night”. Instead he viciously assaults her, whilst intoning some (possibly) Latin phrases. Cue a pregnancy montage and an unhappy mother-to-be, who decides to end it all in a messy suicide attempt. But the child survives, and 23 years later she’s a bike courier called Helen (Alanna LeVierge) who lives and works in Toronto. Having a relatively normal (if slightly introverted) lifestyle, she often visits the Motel in a morbid attempt to connect with her dead mother. Her best friend Molly (Nina Kiri, currently appearing in “The Handmaids Tale” series) is there to support her though. But as she’s returning from the Motel on her birthday, Helen is struck by a car and suffers a head injury and some broken bones. She recovers, but starts to suffer black-outs and hears strange voices. Her friends notice a shift in her personality as well. It turns out that Helen may have a “secret” within her, and one that’s been looking for murderous release for 23 years…
LHO is very reminiscent of a Nicholas Winding Refn movie in several ways. There’s a constant underlying moody (sometimes synth) soundtrack, and several sequences drip in neon or red-hazy lighting. The credits are even neon-tubed and the final scene (don’t worry, not a spoiler) fades to a dull red colour. The cinematography is good, and often involves a lot of slo-mo and stylised jump-cuts. It’s quite indicative of the film itself, as the actual meat-and-bones of the plot itself isn’t that original or innovative, but much of it is pulled off with some style and verve, raising it above the normal exploitation fodder it could have been.
Where it does fall down slightly is with some of the finer details of the narrative. The exposition is a little heavy at times (“I’m sorry your Mom killed herself in a shitty motel”), and some of the dialogue is a little stilted and stagey (“You’re the most ‘real’ thing that I’ve seen tonight”). And although Helen and Molly feel fleshed-out as the protagonists, all the other characters feel pretty flat. Molly’s boyfriend especially comes across as a (douche-bag) caricature who only acts certain ways to drive the plot.
Some moments come across a little eye-rolling as well, and you’ll probably stifle a snigger as Helen puts a stethoscope to her head and says; “Hello?”, rather than feel your spine chill. Her feeble attempts to confine the “evil” presence, makes absolute zero sense when you think about it as well. And in retrospect, the fact that her entire social circle knows all about her head injury, but seem pretty lax about her physical and mental well-being throughout the proceedings, seems a little odd. Friends, eh?
But aside from those issues, there’s still a lot to enjoy here. After a low-key start (which befits her character) LeVierge really throws herself into the role. She hyper-ventilates and exudes fear or menace, sometimes all at once in certain scenes. It’s a nice build-up to later events and she deserves credit for that. There are also some surprisingly jolting moments of body horror which work very effectively indeed. Helen (literally) opens an old wound and makes a horrendous discovery. An intense scene of graphic murder is performed with gusto whilst the camera spins around the deserted location (along with those squelchy sound-effects!). And there’s a traumatic “birthing” scene that assaults the senses.
Perhaps the best element in the film though, is the way in which it interprets Helen’s loss of self.
We mostly have her perspective of events, so there are some smart sequences where jumps in time befuddle the heroine (and ourselves) and she finds herself in inexplicable situations covered in blood or performing something out-of-character. It’s subtly and cleverly done, although this format is gradually lost as the emphasis becomes more graphic and more obviously genre-driven. You could stubbornly argue that this type of set-up (sudden absence of self-control and morality) has certainly been used before by some literary figures and … err … certain Marvel Superheroes. But suffice to say that it is utilised exceptionally well here.
In summary, LHO is a good looking small-scale horror with plenty of style behind it. Yes, the story can feel a little predictable at times and there are some shortfalls, and it drifts a little too far into J-horror at times as well. (NB: Note to filmmakers; No more characters coughing up long strands of hair any more please. It’s been done to death now.) But otherwise, there’s still a lot to like here, and the sheer energy and verve of the film carries it, to provide a very solid genre experience that transcends it’s slightly derivative concept. Let her out then, but she’s worth inviting back in again for another stay.
DVD Extras: Nothing to let out.
LHO is probably a case of style over substance, and there are some nagging downfalls in the content and execution of the plot. But it invariably hits the mark on several occasions with a couple of bravura scenes and some very effective moments. LeVierge also deserves some credit for her performance and the bursts of body-horror are quite jolting. It’s worth letting her in.
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