There’s something incredibly satisfying about a horror comedy that knows it’s silly and leans into it.
That’s absolutely the case for Conor McMahon’s Irish vampire film Let The Wrong One In, whose title itself is a winking nod to the famed Swedish vampire film.
The opening sequence tells you everything about what to expect from the film to come: a bride – Alison (Laura Murray) – and her hen party run through the cobblestone streets of Transylvania in slow motion, chased by a beefy bouncer whom they pelt with an inflatable penis. Alison very quickly meets her end at the hands of a vampire, then travels with her girlfriends back to Dublin to spread the disease, much to the dismay of her jilted groom, Henry (Anthony Head). He naturally becomes a Van Helsing-esque character.
Of course none of this is known to the actual lead of the film, 16 year old Matt (Karl Rice). He’s got his hands full with a demanding, but loving Ma (Hilda Fay) and an estranged, former addict older brother Deco (Eoin Duffy). Unfortunately Deco has been bitten by Alison in a bar and is now seeking a respite from the sun, lest he burn to death. And so begins a hilarious adventure as Matt must first hide his brother from Ma, then deal with his brother’s newfound vampirism while also preventing Henry from killing him.
The plot, which eventually expands beyond Matt’s house to include a vampire night club that Alison and her cronies plan to use to take over Dublin, is fairly threadbare…and it totally doesn’t matter. Let The Wrong One In is busy having a blast with dumb physical gags, gross-out humour and sibling conflict. The film is all the better for it.
In brief, do you:
- Enjoy simpleton characters tasked with saving the world?
- Like seeing characters repeatedly tied to chairs?
- Delight in characters pausing imminent death and danger to flip the bird? And (the kicker)
- Thrill at a recurring gag where someone gets blood splattered all over their face?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then Let The Wrong One In is your jam. It’s a delightful mix of Shaun of the Dead and Get Duked! – a film focused on average, working class people caught up in something fantastical while fixating on their mundane everyday issues.
Rice is a little too old to convincingly pass for sixteen, but he easily conveys the youthful naivety and desperate to please behaviour that makes the character so winsome. Duffy, meanwhile, is fantastically adept at playing a lovable doofus; it’s not hard to be charmed by Deco, even when he’s biting his on again, off again girlfriend Natalie (Lisa Haskins) or attacking the family’s shitty neighbour Frank (David Pearse).
Head is particularly welcome as a slightly different take on his iconic vampire hunting character from Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. Henry is sarcastic and even a little bit dickish, particularly how he delights in taunting Deco. The character benefits from Head’s inimitable wit and dry delivery, which helps make Henry feel like his own character – with just a little pinch of Giles.
Let The Wrong One In derives its narrative tension from Matt’s desire to protect his screw-up older brother while simultaneously learning to stand up for himself in a family full of big personalities. It’s the bond between the brothers that drives both the film’s conflict and provides its gooey emotional center. Although the film isn’t breaking any new ground, it all comes together in a very satisfying way.
Throw in delightfully obvious puppetry, enjoyable slow mo fight scenes and a ton of physical comedy gags and crude humour (farts!) and Let The Wrong One In is simply delightful. It’s always a pleasure when a film knows exactly what it is and, in that capacity, this film is a winner. 4/5
Let The Wrong One In played at Fantastic Fest 2021. It currently does not have distribution.