Don't Let Her In a Witchy Single White Female

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Don't Let Her In

Certain storytelling formulas are eternal; a mysterious stranger coming to town, two-timing lovers, jealousy, suspicion, manipulation, betrayal--it’s the stuff of Greek tragedy and the Shakespearean stage, reflective of the darker aspects in human nature and cornerstones of dramatic tension. Endless permutations can be cooked from such simple ingredients, and a textbook recipe is this: take an ordinary, everyday couple, content if not happy, add the presence of an alluring, dark-hearted seductress, bring to a boil and relish what follows. For extra potency, add a dash of supernatural menace and serve immediately before the audience has a chance to notice how half-baked it all really is.

With a pedigree including TerrorVision and the Subspecies series (known best, perhaps, for being the first vampire film lensed on-location in post-Communist Romania), low-budget auteur Ted Nicolaou has a resume stretching back to the 1980’s VHS blood-and-bare-breasts exploitation boom. Much of his work has been produced by Charles Band’s Full Moon Features and his latest offering under that banner, the two-part streaming series Don’t Let Her In, trades on an interpretation of the tried-and-true love triangle with bewitching results in its opening chapter.

Perky blonde twenty-something horror-movie poster artist Amber (Kelly Curran) and her pothead rock-star wannabe boyfriend Ben (Cole Pendery) have put out the call for a roommate to share the expenses of their downtown converted loft and have it answered by Serena, a sultry, doe-eyed, black-clad “New-Age nerd girl” who keeps both a collection of odd crystals and a bizarre statue and claims to be hiding from a stalker soon-to-be-ex boyfriend. Mistrust immediately flares between Amber and the obviously-smitten Ben, however, and only thickens once Serena’s odd behavior is revealed: she pays for everything in cash, indulges in witching-hour chants, crawls into bed with Amber to allay her anxiety-disorder induced night terrors, and succeeds in seducing Ben one evening while Amber sleeps beside them. The unease only grows once Ben’s band suddenly scores a month-long touring gig and Amber is left alone with an ever-more-possessive Serena, who might be less human than anything else…

As a project, Don’t Let Her In thus far has much in its favor: the scripting is on-point, the directing is smoothly paced, production values are high and lead actresses Curran and Doctor are pitch-perfect in their roles--Amber is portrayed as innocent but not so naïve to believe that Ben isn’t capable of cheating on her, and Serena’s strong sensuality permeates every scene, believably masking her worrying Machiavellian behavior beneath a darkly sexy sheen. Yet for all this the proceedings offer nothing new; the razor-thin plot is reminiscent of Single White Female with witchcraft, bolstered by eye-catching nudity, a few in-jokes and exemplary grotesque creature effects. The largest flaw, however, lies with the fact that, as with Full Moon Features’ recent (and exceptional) two-part streaming series The Resonator: Miskatonic U, a viewer is left to ponder why this wasn’t released as a feature film when the end result would be far more potent in a traditional cinematic format. The entirety of Chapter One is a prolonged set-up: introducing the characters, establishing the sinister melodrama, teasing glimpses of Serena’s malevolent machinations--it’s intriguing, absorbing material, but just as a viewer is hooked the episode abruptly ends. The intention, of course, is to lure an audience back for the subsequent chapter, but the story’s momentum is robbed by the format; there’s simply not enough given in the initial outing to hold our attention, and instead we are left with the frustrating hope that the second installment gives the answers, action and bedeviling bloodshed the first part has promised.

For now, this incomplete feeling persuades me to give Don’t Let Her In Episode One a neutral 2.5 (Out of 5) on my Fang Scale; if Episode Two delivers the goods this score should be retroactively improved by at least a point. Let’s see where this one goes, shall we? 

Grade: 
2.5 / 5.0