Let Us In!: This COVID-Era Exploitation Film is Enjoyable If Wholly Uneven
Let Us In! is a bikersploitation movie tailor made for Generation TikTok. At 61 minutes, Let Us In! is as deliberately paced as a Ramones classic. Its opening moments strive to recapture the look and feel of 70s grindhouse films with its off-kilter use of synth score, its blazing orange static shot of the sun going down, and its ghoulishly lettered title card.
While no attempt is made to use period accurate vehicles in the flick, Moran and company do an honorable job of apprehending the essence of the era. There are enough longhairs, afros and ketchup red blood in here to please even the most jaded exploitation fan.
A bald and enigmatic stranger in dress clothes walks through a wasteland straight out of The Warriors and finds himself in a city that appears to be abandoned. A viral infection has led to shelter in place orders. The result: only two kinds of people are going out—outlaws up to no good and the infected. Sound familiar?
Moran took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic at a time when most unimaginative motherfuckers were resorting to making Zoom mockumentaries. As Reed, the apparent President of a biker gang called Satan’s Keys, Moran uses the outbreak as an excuse to get away with assaulting a rival gang member. Reed and his main man, Zeek, wear ski masks and neckerchiefs to conceal their identities without arousing suspicion.
A member of the Satan’s Keys has gone rogue, selling off their bikes to another M.C., and Reed is out for blood and drugs, and not in that order. Reed knows the traitor stashed their dope in one of several abandoned houses (the location is Detroit, so this could take awhile) and he intends to bag the stash before he bashes his former associate’s brains in.
Meanwhile, a man caring for his “sick” basement-dwelling wife takes in the bald-headed stranger, Chris (Hans Wittrock), and his fellow traveler, Sarah (India Rose). Let Us In! definitely celebrates the Missing Reel feel of an obscure “lost classic” like something you’d find in the wreckage of the Deuce or some second-rate movie theater on Staten Island.
At times, this lack of continuity works to the flick’s advantage and certainly no one can accuse Let Us In! of overstaying its welcome. However, the lack of character development is occasionally off-putting as you really want to know these characters before they become cannibal fodder for the flick’s viral mutants.
Reed and his gang (really more of a quartet as there are only four of them) travel by pick-up truck to what they believe to be the stash house. Instead, they end up at the fateful apartment where Chris and Sarah have just helped their reluctant host dispatch his dearly beloved boogeyho to her final dirt nap.
What follows is the greatest throat ripping in horror history and one of the funniest scenes of someone running on film since Bill Paxton skipped through a cemetery in Howard Avedis’s 1982 flick, Mortuary. I mean, shaking my head like the dude in the yellow Hazmat suit and gas mask shakes his head during Let Us In‘s climax.
We never find out much of anything about Chris, Sarah, or the coke-snorting, monosyllabic members of the Satan’s Keys. Except they have good taste in movies (patch member Zeek wears a T-shirt advertising John Carpenter’s The Thing) and excellent gut instincts (at one point, their leader manages to talk a character into setting down a shotgun that could have easily blasted Beelzebub’s Barbershop Quartet to kingdom come).
The prosthetics and special gore effects by my man James Bell (The Bliss, Evaporation) are on point as always, but some of the action choreography of the mutants attacking the uninfected comes off like Shatner battling a rubber monster in a classic episode of Star Trek. The result is something incongruous and it took me out of the movie to a certain extent.
Moran’s flick could have benefited from a fight coordinator or stunt team to give certain sequences a bit more of a natural flow and energy, but overall he does a serviceable job as a jack-of-all-trades, writing, producing, starring in, choreographing, and directing this shaggy dog exploitation flick.
The DVD jacket (cut all lopsided kiddie-scissors-style in true DIY fashion) is more than a little misleading. The front of the sleeve suggests E.T. Level scrutiny by guys in Hazmat suits with what appear to be flame throwers, while the back boasts a quote (from the magazine to which the director regularly contributes) claiming the proceedings are like “Night of the Living Dead meets Last House on the Left.”
While the former comparison may be somewhat apt (technically, the two strangers seek refuge in the home of a black man, but here the ghouls are inside the house, not outside), the latter couldn’t be more off the mark. Either the “writer” providing the quote has never seen Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left or they simply reached for the grittiest, most brutal example of old-school exploitation they could think of to oversell what Let Us In! has to offer.
Such fallacious marketing is an unfortunate mainstay of the exploitation genre, one that dates back to its not-quite-golden age. Let’s call it the gold-plated age. Many exploitation movies receive lurid artwork that inveigles the prospective viewer with something the movie doesn’t have a chance in Hell of delivering.
The same can be said of Moran’s fellow Michigan-based director Daniel Falicki who has let virtually all of his features get released with thumbnails promising incubi and succubi that never materialize on screen. The only distinction between the two is Falicki’s superior storytelling abilities and stylistic mastery.
Regardless, Let Us In! serves as a loving throwback to the grindhouse movies of yesteryear, even if it doesn’t ever reach as far as its forebears for inspiration or imagination. Whatever. The real point to this one-hour cinematic atrocity is the special prosthetic effects of underground master—and human flesh lampshade artisan—James Bell. If you came for Bell’s gore, you’ll leave (mostly) satisfied.
Let Us In! is one fucked up and fun bite size picture that bears all the hallmarks of a labor of love. I’m not usually a big fan of the Missing Reel gag since, more often than not, it feels less like an earnest homage to Seventies grindhouse movies and more like a tired nod to Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror,
but it is fitting for a flick with such a brief runtime.
Moran’s murderous zombie biker hybrid is one act too short to feel like a true feature, but this may work to his advantage as it leaves you wanting more. And that’s just what you’ll get if Moran has his druthers. Independent American Pictures is gearing up to shoot a Let Us In! sequel entitled The Evil 1%.
For more information on the forthcoming sequel or to order Let Us In! on VHS or DVD, keep an eyeball gouged out and fixed on Moran’s social accounts: @independent_american_pictures @anthonyemoran
Bob Freville is a writer, producer and director from New York. Freville’s films include the Berkeley TV cult classic Of Bitches & Hounds and the Troma vampire movie Hemo. His X-rated bikersploitation novella The Filthy Marauders is available from The Evil Cookie Publishing. He is an associate producer of the Sean Whalen horror-comedy Crust and the writer-producer of the forthcoming Norwegian drug comedy The Scavengers of Stavanger. Follow @bobfreville