Monday, January 2, 2012

DVD Review: DON'T LET HIM IN (2011)


Label: Image Entertainment
Release Date: January 3rd 2012
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 79mins
Video: 6:9 Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0, English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Director: Kelly Smith
Cast:  Sophie Linfield, Sam Hazeldine, Gordon Alexander

Synopsis: What if you invited a serial killer on holiday? Heading off for a weekend in the country, Paige and Calvin reluctantly allow Calvin's brash younger sister to bring along Tristan, an arrogant city trader she's picked up in a one-night stand; but when the group learn a brutal serial killer is plaguing the area, Paige must confront the disturbing truth about Tristan.

I must say that the past few years have been robust with quality indie genre films outta the United Kingdom. A few of my favorites include the Faustian fantasy film HEARTLESS (2009), the paranoid thriller SALVAGE (2009) and the quietly intense portrait of serial killer TONY (2010). The latest export from the UK to screen on my LCD is the nasty slice o' indie-horror by the title of DON'T LET HIM IN (2011) from first time feature film director Kelly Smith. The director doesn't really stray too far from established formulas we've seen so often but he manages to throws in a few tasty surprises that might just make this worth a rental, so let's have a look.

A nurse named Paige and her boyfriend Calvin are a young Brit couple on their way to a countryside retreat when they stop off to pick-up his super-slutty sister Mandy  who rather rudely schleps along a wealthy young man she's only just met the night before at the club against her brother's better judgment. He's an arrogant sort of prick with an unattractive sense of entitlement by the name of Tristan. After an uncomfortable car ride the foursome arrive at their rural destination only to be informed by a local policeman Sgt. Utley that a serial killer known as the Tree Surgeon has been stalking the area and that it would be best if they keep their doors locked and not wander about the area after dark. The killer's known as the tree surgeon for hanging the dismembered remains of his victims from trees in the area.

No sooner is it dark than does a bloodied stranger named Shawn arrive on the doorstep of the cottage, barely conscious and sporting a nasty gash to the gut, the shocking arrival scares the bejeezus outta Paige whose home alone at the time but luckily for the stranger she's able to quickly tend to his mostly superficial wound. The next day during breakfast there's some nastiness between Tristan and pretty much everyone else in the group about what a bad idea it is to let the stranger remain in the house when there's a psychotic killer in the area, but Tristan is no innocent himself and may actually pose more of a danger to the group than the killer at large.

The characters are pretty one-dimensional with both Paige and Calvin just being pretty swell people the kind you'd want for pals. The sister Mandy is just a straight-up trollop, the most annoying  insecure cum-sucker you could ever hope to meet at a bar and Tristan as mentioned previously is just an arrogant prick with potentially murderous tendencies. The stranger Shawn turns out to be a hitchhiker with a heart of gold or so it seems, a few of the characters get some decent twists thrown their way but overall it felt just a bit too contrived.

The finale is pretty twisted in it's own way I guess with some decent low-budget gore effects but like I say it just felt a bit too contrived with a double-downer ending that should've left me chilled but really just kinda left me wondering, really? Don't get me wrong, this is not a terrible film, it's a decent first film with a few nice moments of suspense and twists but it's by the numbers and I found even the twists were expected.

On the plus side the acting is pretty top notch even if most of the actors don't get much to to chew on aside from the final girl and the killer, even though I found his motivations a bit too weird and nonsensical.  There's some decent kills and a fair bodycount considering the small cast, it moves along briskly at only 79 minutes and the droning score is chillingly effective. While it lacks originality it's still an entertaining watch but on the downside I didn't particularly care for the look of the film, it's particularly cold looking and a bit ugly, workman like in it's composition. A lot of character's decisions/actions were laughably poor without any logic, for instance a scene wherein an art class sketching trees makes a gruesome discovery made me laugh out loud, it is ridiculously bad.

DVD Special Features:
- Audio Commentary featuring Co-Writer/Producer/Director Kelly Smith, Co-Writer Chris Andrews and Co=Producer Mike Mindell
- Behind the Scenes Featurette (41:22) 16:9
- The Making of the Visual Effects (1:16) 16:9
- Trailer (1:58) 16:9

Verdict: It's not too original but neither is it a piss poor film, just a middle of the road spin on the cabin in the woods genre with a few inspired moments from a first time film director. I'm definitely not writing Kelly Smith outta the game, there's definitely potential for this young talent to really shine, it's just not here. Definitely worth a rental or checking out if it's streaming on Netflix, but only a medium recommend.
2.5 outta 5