Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2016: 'Let Her Out'
There are moments that peek out from the general blandness of this film, moments that display artistry and the potential for something greater.
When a bike courier has a bad accident outside of the motel where her mother died, things get strange. All of a sudden, Helen’s (Alanna LeVierge) idyllic life of hanging out in hip lofts with her actress roommate, Molly (Nina Kiri), becomes tinged with the presence of some kind of evil force that seems to follow her everywhere.
Watching Cody Calahan’s film, I couldn’t help but think of It Follows (2014). To be sure, the '80s throwback trend is nothing new anymore, and the story itself doesn’t call to mind David Robert Mitchell’s modern classic, but there’s a pervading feeling that you’ve seen this all before. The problem isn’t even that it’s derivative, but that it doesn’t pull it off.
The success of the genre depends on being convinced of the world it creates, and Let Her Out doesn’t really do that. The stilted acting and inconsistent writing make the film feel like one of the myriad Eurotrash films that came out in the '80s, capitalizing on current trends by giving the impression of English Horror authenticity despite their Italian, German, or French creators and actors.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and in fact Let Her Out has an eerie atmosphere despite its narrative shortcomings. The opening scene, nonsensical as it is, is pretty captivating. Much of this is due to the excellent photography, which is framed and shot with razor-sharp precision.
Even the editing is satisfying, as with a moment in the film when Helen, after being confronted in an alleyway, looks down an adjoining alley to a door. It’s a simple sequence, but it’s visually arresting despite the reservations one might have with the rest of the film.
As far as generating actual fear goes, however, Let Her Out doesn't deliver. For the most part, scares derive less from the combination of tense narrative with visual accompaniment then they do from sudden noises and gory visuals. The bar for horror has been raised in recent years by films like The Babadook (2014), which pairs unsettling and relatable narratives with calculated and unique visuals. So for Let Her Out to rely on cheap thrills is a bit disappointing, considering the quality of its competition.
There are moments that peek out from the general blandness and display artistry and the potential for something greater -- here I think of the scene where a man is killed in a subway station, or the opening shot, or the slow build to uncover a dead lover. There's mystery too, as when Helen awakes to find her feet bleeding from broken glass. Generally, it seems as if the film has the potential to be good, but it got diverted along the way and decided to take the shortcut.
For all that, however, it feels wrong to hate the film too much. It’s clearly trying to be entertaining and for the most part, it’s a lot of fun to watch. The cinematography carries its running time, and the gore and special effects are pretty good. It’s just a shame that there isn’t more to the film to keep it buoyant. It doesn’t leave much of an impression after you’ve left.