BLACK EYED CHILDREN: LET ME IN
Directed by Jason Snyder
Horror kids come in many forms. Sometimes they’re demonic (The Omen), others they’re psychic (Village Of The Damned) and then there’s those that are just bloody creepy (or because they’re vampires, as per the similarly titled Let Me In). From a conceptual standpoint it’s no wonder the market’s getting saturated – the juxtaposition between innocence and evil is ever eerie and ripe for exploitation. In this crowd-funded debut, from director Justin Snyder, they’re of the black eyed variety. Based upon an urban legend, the mockumentary explores different accounts of who/ what these mysterious kids are and what unnerving things they do.
So picture this: you open the door and see a strange little kid asking to be invited in. You want to help, yet there’s something off about him. It’s the eyes – look into them and they’re black as midnight on a moonless night. What’d you do? The fairly likeable filmmaker (played by Snyder) opens with an engaging, if overly long, segment about this scenario where he asks supposedly random members of the public. What follows is a beginners’ guide to black eyed children that looks at examples of sightings complete with some charming, albeit obviously fake, images. From here the main narrative thrust comes from our host driving around the Huntsman’s Lake area and gathering accounts from a range of sources. These include the obligatory superstitious citizens and supposed paranormal experts. About 40 minutes later there’s a found footage segment. Then around 20 minutes after it builds towards a big climax, complete with a twist to wrap it up. Whilst Black Eyed Children: Let Me In is hardly going to win awards for originality, it does some interesting things along the way. For a start, the premise is just about interesting enough to keep you curious despite the film’s various pacing problems. Some of the scientific jargon is maybe a little vague but the mockumentary format gives it a credibility it’d lose under a more traditional telling. It’s also likely to lead to some Googling of your own. The framing device of Snyder’s quest is maybe the more accomplished strand and takes us to some spooky locations, albeit ones that tend to be filled with talking heads or the usual clichéd tropes such as baby dolls’ heads. What little we see of the titular fiends is well done, with a recovered video sequence in particular exhibiting a promise that sadly the remainder of the film betrays.
Unfortunately the creator’s vision is somewhat let down by shoestring production values. This film was made for considerably less than 1000 dollars. And whilst it was nice to see something that was a labour of love, it’s simply not a movie I can recommend and mean it. The constraints are clear from the pound shop title screen, and are never less than obvious given how little onscreen action we see. Sure, some of the stories are creepy – but they’re also longwinded and not dissimilar enough to keep an audience interested. Particularly since we know that the speakers lived to tell the tale. Furthermore, when these talking heads are accompanied by the self-same warm, but unintentionally funny, soundtrack it’s very difficult not to have a recurring feeling of déjà vu after the first five minutes. Consequently, it feels so much longer than its feature-length testing 67 minutes. This is not helped by its disjointed style and reliance on telling rather than showing, meaning it lacks any feeling of urgency or forward momentum.
All of this is a shame as I truly believe the project has potential. Had it been more polished or redrafted for a bigger budget then Snyder could have had something more memorable on his hands. Sadly it will likely vanish quickly into the ether of evil children and handheld horrors. Still, I don’t wish to write off Justin as a filmmaker – give it some years and he may mature into one to watch.