When I think of horror films that focus on siblings, plenty come to mind – “The Lost Boys” (1987), “Ginger Snaps” (2000), “House of Wax” (2005), “Oculus” (2013), “Evil Dead” (2013),“Scream” (2022). There’s often an exploration of good and evil – one sibling usually has it more “together” while the other has strayed or gone bad. I think what ties most of these films together is that the relationship between the siblings is frayed or at risk of crumbling – one of the siblings might have been out of the picture for a while and is just returning to town, or there’s an attempt on both parties to salvage the kinship. It also seems for the most part that one of the siblings tries not to give up on the other, and they fight to pull their kin from the darkness. Such is the case in writer/director Conor McMahon’s Irish horror-comedy, “Let the Wrong One In.” The title here’s a nod to John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Swedish novel “Let the Right One In” (see also the 2008 Swedish film adaptation and the 2010 Chloë Grace Moretz-starring U.S. adaptation “Let Me In”).
“Let the Wrong One In” focuses on a dilemma between two brothers, Matt (Karl Rice) and Deco (Eoin Duffy). Matt’s the ordinary of the two, working a steady job, staying out of trouble, and helping his Ma (Hilda Fay). It’s telling that Matt still has the bunkbed in his room – it’s as if he’s expecting his brother to return. Sibling two, Deco – obvious from the first time we see him – has been bitten by a vampire. Despite his Ma’s warnings to steer clear of his brother, Matt invites Deco into the house. By default, Matt gets to work sorting out his brother’s problems.
One thing I like about the setup is that the rules of this universe are established from the start. McMahon knows that we’re up to date with general vampire lore, about how they can’t go in sunlight and hate garlic – he doesn’t waste time feeding us this information and instead shows us different traits of the vampire through blood-soaked, rib-tickling scenes. He also creates his own lore and adapts some of the funnier vampire effects caught on film. The human head in place of a bat’s head is a perfect example – I haven’t seen such an effect since “Dracula: Dead and Loving It.”
What sets “Let the Wrong One In” apart from the more serious sibling-horror films is that it has a unique charm and campy,self-aware humor. There are clear nods to other horror films like “The Shining” (the face through the door), “Demons” (everyone running slowly down a blue-lit hall), and “Evil Dead 2” (one of McMahon’s noted inspirations; the slapstick is strong with this one). It also made me recall films like “Shaun of the Dead,”“Fright Night,” and “What We Do in the Shadows.” If you liked those, you’ll be right at home with “Let the Wrong One In.” Add to this tons (and I mean tons) of bloody practical effects and a fantastic Van Helsing-like role from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” icon Anthony Head? Sign me up.
It was great seeing Anthony Head take the role of Vampire Hunter. I like that McMahon gave Head’s character a strong motive for hunting – his fiancé was turned and she’s creating avampire army. Head’s character Henry acts as damage control, collecting leads on vamps and staking them. Head goes all out in this – he has lots of stunts and is often thrown around or hit with nearby objects. I was thrilled he had a large amount of screen time and was concerned it would only be a minor supporting role. Head’s character is also the voice of reason for Matt, pointing out to him that he’s being used by his brother.
We see how Matt’s tested when he’s in the thick of helping Decowith his affliction. It should be an easy decision for Matt to put his foot down and say “Enough,” but he’s riddled with guilt over the past and he thinks he owes his brother. I think this is a situation many people can relate to, family-related or not. Sometimes we feel obligated and indebted to someone, and we have a hard time creating boundaries or cutting ties, even when it becomes a toxic situation. Matt is at a crossroads where either he has to make a decision about his brother, or his brother has tomeet him halfway and change.
Lead cast aside, “Let the Wrong One In” features a strong ensemble of supporting characters – Henry’s villainous vampire ex-fiancé Sheila (Mary Murray), Matt’s neighbor and property manager Frank (David Pearse), Deco’s frustrated and bad-influence girlfriend Natalie (Lisa Haskins), and Matt’s and Deco’s Ma (Hilda Fay). Lead and supporting cast all have their own front-and-center over-the-top moments. Hilda Fay has some great one-liners and shines in the final act.
“Let the Wrong One In” (Dark Sky Films) was released in select theaters and on digital April 1st. If you’re looking for an original and entertaining horror-comedy about brothers, family, and forgiveness, you can’t go wrong with this. I enjoyed the many nods and callbacks to prior-decades vampire hits and other horror movies. I can see this gaining a sort of cult following over time – it has that heart. I look forward to supporting the film when it gets a physical release.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Bret Laurie is an editor, writer, and longtime horror fan in Massachusetts. He contributes film reviews regularly and supports independent horror films through social media. His flash-fiction tale “The Shell” is featured in the DarkLit Press anthology “Beach Bodies.”