[Fantastic Fest 2021 Review] ‘Let the Wrong One In’ is a bloody good time

Let the Wrong One In was one of the many projects hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic, and after production was postponed for six months, director Conor McMahon and producer Ruth Treacy struggled to get everything back on the road. Most fortunately, their work paid off because the end result is far better than a number of other films made during the pandemic.

This energetic comedy is set on the northside of Dublin, and it centers on a 16-year-old named Matt (Karl Rice). He is dealing with the fact that his older brother, Deco (Eoin Duffy), is now a vampire. Being the kind soul he is, Matt tries to help Deco despite being advised not to by a vampire killer named Henry (Anthony Head). As the brothers figure things out, the vampires responsible for this mess pay them a visit.

“[You] will feel totally immersed in the environment”

Conor McMahon first gained attention in horror circles with the grisly clown comedy, Stitches, before following up with a less seen and more severe creature feature, From the Dark. Seven years later, he now returns to the genre with something that better resembles his most renowned movie. The jump back to humor is a wise choice as it feels comfortable for the filmmaker. While Stitches is essentially an American teen slasher but made with Irish actors, Let the Wrong One In is unequivocally Irish in every regard. Or “Dublish,” to be more specific. The local color and dialogue is genuine given McMahon’s upbringing, and viewers both domestic and foreign will feel totally immersed in the environment. The jokes land almost every time as well.

The original script centered around two friends rather than brothers; Matt was intended to be older before McMahon insisted on 15-year-old Karl Rice for the role. The change to the story was for the better because there is more at stake (ahem) than before. The family dynamics come out in full force as Deco not only battles other creatures of the night but also his and Matt’s intimidating mother (Hilda Fay). Deco bled everyone dry before even becoming a member of the undead, and his ma holds that against him post mortem. Deco’s demons are both literal and metaphorical. This being a comedy, however, McMahon does not dwell on the serious subject matter.

“Well balanced in laughs and gore”

Let the Wrong One In is a comedy well balanced in laughs and gore. The gags are largely physical — one second Deco is spewing blood all over his brother, the next he is whisking Matt away after turning into an adorable bat — with occasional regional jokes that Dubliners will better appreciate. Everything is almost always in jest or self-deprecating.

Everyone can find something to enjoy or laugh about in Let the Wrong One In. Whether it is the over-the-top violence and bloodletting, or the humble poking at Dublin culture, McMahon shows affection for both the genre he adores and the place he grew up.

The title would suggest this is a satire of modern vampire flicks, but Let the Wrong One In avoids all that and instead finds its own fangs.

Let the Wrong One In premiered at Fantastic Fest 2021.

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