This post begins with a shout-out to all the amazing people that put together the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival. I was blown away by the amazing organization and attentiveness of the staff, not to mention the nice venue choices. Even my fellow horror nerds and writers in the audience were the most courteous that I think I’ve ever experienced. So give yourselves a hand. And if you weren’t there, you fucked up because it was awesome.
REVIEW: LET HER OUT
Few things shock me anymore. But the visualization of rape is not one of them. It’s real and realer to most women than anyone wants to admit or discuss. Let Her Out introduces itself with this alienating and terrifying experience, which is a hell of a way to start. A hotel maid is a prostitute by night, closing in the early morning before starting her morning shift. But one night, an evil faceless man forces his way into her room and takes what he wants. The scene drains you emotionally within these first ten minutes, leaving you wondering what could possibly be next. But then the plot moves on to something completely alien, namely that of being possessed by your absorbed twin fetus. You might laugh at that juxtaposition (and a few in the audience did). This is the essential premise of Let Her Out—the unbelievable problem of having your unborn twin fighting to take over your body. It’s an initially shocking, voyeuristic film that plays with artsy neon lighting in some places and flirts with a stroke of body horror in others. It is a melding of both worlds—the ethereal and the gory.
After the sad and violent beginning, we meet a city bike messenger named Helen. And it’s also Helen’s twenty-third birthday. Molly, her best friend, accompanies her to the same hotel where her mother, the aforementioned hotel maid, killed herself while pregnant with Helen. She wonders aloud about the existential crisis she’s faced with—another year older, another year wondering if she’s somehow like her mother. Molly gets a text from her boyfriend and has to run, leaving Helene to set out for home on bike. Suddenly a car hits Helene in the parking lot of the hotel. We come to find out that the crash has triggered a demon within her, a growing twin sister in her brain. She begins hearing voices, waking up not knowing where she’s been and receiving messages from “her”, the demon that now has a gateway to the real world through Helen’s weakened state. Helen’s doctor books her for surgery, but it will take three days before they can get her into the OR. She’s faced with the task of staying put and burying the demon within her until they can remove the mass of bones from her brain.
Some elements work well, while others take away from truly great scenes. One element that is not welcome is some of the acting, unfortunately. Lead Alanna LeVierge (as Helene) presents an appropriate amount of pouty, pitiful starlet on one hand, but is then able to deliver a flawless performance as her alter demon. Nina Kiri, as Molly, is one of the more believable characters; both caring when she needs to be and a paternal figure when shit’s just all-out fucked. Mom, played by Brooke Henderson, offers the most alluring and heart-wrenching performance, though it lasts all of ten minutes. Most of the other actors, I have to be honest, did a poor job. I should point out that there were times where it was difficult to separate the performances from the writing. And there were a few times I cringed at the unhappy meeting of the two. Let’s give Molly a gangly long-haired theater geek boyfriend that we’re supposed to believe is also a coke fiend predator? No, it doesn’t work. What about a doctor who delivers her prognosis as though she’s reading ingredients from her Amy’s breakfast burrito wrapper? Again, nope. These were the kinds of scenes that took me away from the horror that the last half hour actually delivered. So rather than dealing with the obvious flaws, I’d rather delve into the pieces I loved. And what a beautiful culmination of gore and psychological thriller its last half hour turned out to be.
Let Her Out ruminates on aspects of feminine psychological horror that few still touch upon. I am reminded of one of my favorite films, Repulsion, in which the timeless Catherine Deneuve feels completely trapped by the thought of encountering the outside world (namely men) while trying to conquer the world inside her. This sort of displacement is the kind that Helen is also battling. It’s as if she was suddenly aware of the kind of woman everyone expects her to be—just like her mother—because the expectation of women is limited to tropes and types. We’re no good at analyzing ourselves unless there’s a reference point, right? And Helene has that difficulty as a result of being an orphan who never knew her mother. Tack on the frustrating, sometimes abusive, men in her life that just want to fuck her without further regard for her at all and you have a scarily familiar feminine problem. It’s a frightening element from the start, but grows exponentially when another psychotic being is introduced into the same body. When you’re already not sure of who you are AND no one believes you, how can you fight this entity in order to save your identity? That’s a really good question.
I won’t spoil the ending because I believe this film is worth watching and exploring. I was shocked and grew more and more giddy during the end sequence and overall had an amazing time watching it. It was not my top pick of the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival weekend, but it warrants more viewers. There are really great effects in this film that I’ve never seen attempted elsewhere—and they need to be seen to be believed! The editing is impeccable, the makeup and effects are flawless and I enjoyed the attractive cinematography while I wasn’t being spooked. For its beauty, its gore and its imaginative scenes, Let Her Out gets 3 zombie heads.