Brooklyn Horror Film Festival Movie Review: LET HER OUT (2016)

LET HER OUT – sounds familiar, right?  The title is more than slightly reminiscent of LET ME IN, but don’t get too excited!  This is NOT an unnecessary sequel to everyone’s favorite vampiric Swedish children tale.  It is, however, probably hoping to borrow some of that film’s eerie atmosphere (and presumably some of its runaway financial success), although the stories and setting are vastly different.

LET HER OUT opens on a maid who makes money on the side by having intercourse with strange men in a grungy, but moodily lit motel room.  She is accosted and raped by a knife-wielding demonic figure in a wide-brimmed hat, and soon falls pregnant.  She commits suicide, but the child survives.  Cut to 23 years later, and her daughter Helen (Alanna LeVierge) is all grown up. Helen begins suffering from mysterious injuries, fugue states, and memory loss, and soon finds out something sinister is happening inside her head.

Director Cody Calahan infuses the visual look with a neon theme.  Much of the film is soaked in pinks, reds, and blues, almost as though it’s lit by a glowing motel sign on the side of a desolate highway.  The electronic soundtrack and sound design build atmosphere admirably, and a couple of smartly edited stylish sequences round out an appealing technical package – impressive relative to the film’s low budget.

The cast – who look like they’ve been poached from a CW production – provide us with performances that sadly don’t make it over the finish line.  Leading lady Alanna LeVierge doesn’t possess the charisma necessary to carry the film, and although the role does call for her to look consistently lost, she looks lost in a different way to what was intended.

The film tries desperately to startle the audience, rustling up a couple of old fashioned jump-scare gags that we’ve seen in a million other films.  They’re incredibly telegraphed, and never quite work.  There’s a scene where LeVierge reaches down her throat and pulls out a clump of hair.  How many times have we seen that before?  At least a few times in the RING series, right? And it’s not just the gags that we’ve seen multiple times.

At it’s core, it’s a multiple personality story, albeit one with a supernatural-unborn-twist. Using the multiple personality plot device is risky business.  It’s been done so many times before, which makes it tough to bring any new life to the concept.  If you’ve seen your fair share of movies that utilize the idea – I know I have, and I’m almost certain you have too – then there won’t be much here to really catch you off guard.

The underlying theme of the film is also rather muddy.  Is it about mental illness?  Is it about the breakdown of friendships as people move into different stages of their lives?  I guess LET HER OUTcould be about either of those things, but it doesn’t feel developed enough.  We also never find out why these things are happening to the protagonist.  Why is her other half so evil?  Are we meant to just assume that all unborn twins are innately sinister?

I did like the look of the film, and Toronto makes for an interesting setting.  The shots of the skyline made me want to visit and explore as soon as the credits rolled, though as a cinematic location, it usually acts as a city that can double as anywhere.  With a bit of set dressing, it can be New York, or Los Angeles, or London.  Does that imply the city is known for lacking its own visual and architectural identity?  Maybe it’s fitting then that LET HER OUT was filmed there, since it’s interesting to look at, but doesn’t really have its own outward identity.

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