When creating horror films, directors often pull from long-told tales focused on mythical creatures like Slenderman or spooky situations involving a mysterious hitchhiker. One lesser-known urban legend talks about pale-faced children with large black eyes who appear alone alongside roads and in other secluded areas. Supposedly these mysterious youths (cleverly called Black-Eyed kids) are responsible for several people disappearing. Definitely a creepy premise for a film, but director Craig Moss and writer Joe Callero take a slightly different approach to the story with their creation of LET US IN. Some have already claimed this movie classifies as gateway horror, which means the film is meant for kids. And when I say this is a kid’s horror film, I do not mean a cutesy Witch Mountain type of movie. Instead, Moss and Callero’s film is better suited for the pre-teens who want something more intense but are not ready for a full-on R-film. Instead of gore and adult themes, LET US IN creates a family-friendly film in which they combine an eerie urban legend with sci-fi qualities.
Our main character Emily (Makenzie Moss) lives the life of an outsider. She comes from a loving household and enjoys building really advanced machinery with her best friend Christopher (O’Neill Monahan); however, the rest of the town avoids poor Emily. Adults hurry their small children away from her and the evil mean girls openly mock her and call her a murderer. An “incident” from Emily’s past makes her an easy target for local kids, but the details of the tragedy stay a mystery for most of the film. Letting us learn about Emily more from the perspective of others rather than develop our own thoughts on the girl.
As Emily struggles with inner demons leftover from the unmentioned trauma, the town also experiences significant loss as teenagers start disappearing with no explanation. And after someone close to Emily vanishes, the young heroine, Christopher, and local journalist Harold Lutz (Mather Zickel) team up to investigate. With a bit of digging, they discover similar cases of missing kids occurred fifty years prior. Only one person escaped the black-eyed kids, so now the scary old man in the town named Mr. Munch (Tobin Bell) might hold the secret to the black-eyed kids.
Though advertised as a horror, the movie holds themes similar to beloved children’s movies. Within the film, we see that children can create NASA-like technology using easily accessible items and that the discarded elderly is closer to thinking like children than the cops or parents who ultimately ignore the youth. And not only does the film offer a lot for the younger crowd to relate to but LET US IN also provides an enjoyable time for adults as well. Parents who grew up watching childhood movies like The Goonies, Radioflyer, and Explorers, where children create an incredibly advanced piece of equipment, will find some similarities in this film’s approach to child scientists.
The young cast provides some likable and relatable figures for the more youthful audience and the appearance of the Black-Eyed kids plays into home invasion fears. However, the writing makes some epic errors with awkward placement of slang in a weird attempt by the creators of the film to seem more in touch with the youth. And there are some plot holes as the story relies a bit too much on Deus ex Machina, but it occurs no more than the average kid’s movie. Quite a bit of suspension of disbelief will need to occur for adults (especially the more cynical ones) but younger kids getting into horror will find that LET US IN contains just the right amount of creepiness and thrills.
LET US IN will be available On Demand and Digital on July 2, 2021.