LET THE WRONG ONE IN poster | ©2022 Dark Sky Films

LET THE WRONG ONE IN poster | ©2022 Dark Sky Films

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Karl Rice, Eoin Duffy, Hilda Fay, David Pearse, Mary Murray, Anthony Head, Lisa Haskins
Writer: Conor McMahon
Director: Conor McMahon
Distributor: Dark Sky Films
Release Date: April 1, 2022

LET THE WRONG ONE IN is a vampire movie, though not, as its title might suggest, a direct parody of the 2008 Swedish film LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, and/or its 2010 American remake, LET ME IN.

In fact, LET THE WRONG ONE IN begins Hammer Horror-style, with lightning crackling around a castle, menacing orchestral music, and the title in dripping red letters.

But no, this isn’t a Hammer send-up, either. After a prologue in present-day Transylvania, we’re in Dublin, Ireland. Matt (Karl Rice), a nice enough young supermarket worker, lives here in a reasonable-sized house with his Ma (Hilda Fay).

Ma and Matt enjoy a warm parent/child relationship. This is not the case with Matt’s older brother Deco (Eoin Duffy), who is not on speaking terms with Ma. Ma is angry with Deco for being an addict, and warns Matt not to let him into the house.

By the time Deco shows up at the door requesting entry, there’s an even better reason for Matt to keep him outside. Deco has been bitten by a vampire, and is starting to burn up in the daylight. Matt lets Deco in, and actually realizes sooner than his brother does what’s actually happening here.

Meanwhile, Henry (Anthony Head), a vampire-hunting cab driver, is on a mission to rid Dublin of bloodsuckers. At the same time, Deco’s alternately loving and threatening girlfriend Natalie (Lisa Haskins) is desperate to find him, and local top vampire Sheila (Mary Murray) is planning to paint the town red.

LET THE WRONG ONE IN writer/director Conor McMahon seems to be aiming for an Irish SHAUN OF THE DEAD, with vampires instead of zombies. There’s nothing wrong with that notion.

McMahon does have some great slapstick fights, often with more than two opponents involved. We often can’t guess whether the outcome will be a draw or a fatality, which makes it even better.

The plot of LET THE WRONG ONE IN is a bit haphazard, with so much time spent on Matt and Deco that narrative points feel hurried when they arrive.

Still, this isn’t the film’s main problem. That would be the depiction of Deco. We need to feel at least a twinge of sympathy for Matt’s brotherly predicament. Deco is presented as so selfish, whiny, addled, and lacking in empathy that what should be a huge emotional and ethical conflict for Matt simply doesn’t grip us. When Deco gets aggressive, we understand on a meta level why Matt doesn’t stake him (the movie would end), but it doesn’t make sense in story terms. Actor Duffy follows the script’s dictates with vigor; it’s just that those dictates require him to be notably off-putting.

Likewise, Matt is meant to be such an Everyman that he doesn’t get the kinds of moments that highlight his dilemma. This isn’t the fault of Rice, who commits to Matt’s bafflement, resignation and rectitude. It just seems like we’re meant to find all of this funny because of the broad strokes, not because of the details.

Casting Head – so indelible as Giles on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER – as a, well, vampire slayer has its own meta potential. However, the performance and character are both so different here that it is surprisingly not distracting. Head commits thoroughly to the spirit of LET THE WRONG ONE IN, and we accept him as Henry.

LET THE WRONG ONE IN revels in the kind of comedy that requires all of the characters to be not very bright. Some people love this, and will likely enjoy the movie a lot more than those who don’t. In any case, the action is inventive, the gore is plentiful, and it ends exactly how we might expect.

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