Let Us In starts off as many thrillers do, two teenagers making out in a decrepit forest way too far from their friend group. Suddenly a group of hooded figures approach them with black sunken eyes, asking in unison “will you let us in?” Of course like any rational person, they say no. After some persuading from the hooded people (i.e. beating them into submission) they eventually say yes and go missing. The film’s lead, Emily (Makenzie Moss) has an encounter with these figures but is lucky enough to get away. As more and more teenagers go missing Emily and her younger companion Christopher (O’Niell Monahan) get wrapped up in the town’s frightening mystery.
The plot starts out following along with the initial tropes set up earlier, Emily is a seventh grader and struggling to fit in with the popular girls at school. She has diverging interests than her schoolmates and she is struggling to move through the impacts of a family tragedy. So naturally in movie world, she is a loser. Her only friend is sixth grader Christopher who is trying to contact aliens with a device set up in his garage. There is a certain charm with movies that explore a small town mystery with young people spearheading the investigation despite the clearly dangerous circumstances. We tend to worry more about young people very clearly in over their heads. Especially since there is usually no adult supervision in sight. It’s this same appeal in movies like IT or Ma that ups the ante and wraps people into tragedies children are experiencing. Let Us In maintains aspects of this charm with the relationship between Emily and Christopher, and Emily and Jessie (Sadie Stanley), Christopher’s older sister. It is endearing to witness the mentorship between each pair with challenging moments in their lives.
Unfortunately where the captivation starts to falters in the overall representation of teenagers. The script sounds like two old people wrote what they think a “young and hip” audience would like but they couldn’t be further any authenticity. The continuous use and delivery of slang felt awkward and out of place. While I am getting to be quite a distance from my teenage years, I know people don’t say “on fleek” anymore. Not to mention the use of ableist jokes were unnecessary additions, absorbing likeability from that characters. Jokes about children “being slow” or “on the spectrum” are not only unequivocally not funny, but harmful, especially when coming from adults. Questionable additions continue with actress Mackenzie Ziegler; she was a wildly unsuitable fit. Her character’s friend group is 12-14 years old, yet she is 17 in real life and definitely looks it. This makes me question the intention of having her in the cast. I suspect her popularity was used to gain interest, yet it only served to further emphasize the disconnection from a teen experience.
The indecisiveness of content was wedged between the wants of an older or younger audience. Many of the scenes when teenagers are kidnapped are mildly gruesome, or at least implied gore, making for spine tingling moments that were some of the best parts to experience. The overall plot is better suited to an older audience and would have given more opportunity for risky scenes. The film took a rushed and sharp turn towards setting up a resolution by including a large amount of exposition by the typical creepy yet wise old man. Perhaps forgivable if the conclusion attempted to tie up more loose ends instead of creating more questions that have no need to be answered. Despite the rocky plot and writing, Let Us In is entertaining in a cringey, laugh-at rather than laugh-with sort of way. And at the very least, worth checking out simply to form your own opinion.