Sooner or later, our bodies will betray us. Regardless of how much we exercise, how balanced our diet is, how much we abstain from drugs/sugar/alcohol and a host other negative behaviors, our bodies will fall to dust. In Cody Calahan’s film Let Her Out, the filmmaker – much in the tradition on body horror flicks by masters such as David Cronenberg – takes on this primal fear and twists it in new and inventive ways to create an especially unsettling and effective horror spectacle.
“She sees fleeting visions of a female figure who is revealed to be a wild eyed doppleganger of herself…”
At a rundown motel off some forgotten interstate near Seattle, a dead-eyed young woman is turning tricks in one of the rooms. In a spare montage, she services John after John. In a bit of cruel irony, just as she is getting ready to head out to a legit 9am-5pm job, she is attacked and raped by a faceless, razor wielding intruder. A scene later, we see the young woman again, her eyes even more hollow than ever, with very pregnant, swollen belly. In a fit of despair, she drives a blade into her stomach in a desperate attempt to be rid of the rapist’s fetus inside her. Bleeding out on the bed, the police arrive but are they in time to save her?
As the opening credits roll, the sound a crying baby can be plainly heard. A title card indicates that 23 years have passed. With that, we’re introduced to Helen. A beautiful young woman (Alanna LeVierge) who pays the bills as a bike messenger in the Emerald City, and is swifty revealed to be the daughter of the prostitute from the film’s opening.
Helen, a bit of a margin walker with few connections, has a on again-off again relationship with Roman, a loft residing hipster who gifts with a creepy, monochromatic portrait of her for her birthday. Helen’s only other confidant it seems is another twenty-something, Molly (Nina Kiri). Outside the same but now abandoned hotel where her mother was murdered, Helen recounts to Molly the story of her mother’s death and explains that she is inexplicably drawn to the hotel. Poking around the ruined surroundings, Helen happens upon the same room where her mother was brutally murdered 23 years earlier. As she peers through a window, what at first seems like a light emanating from inside her mother’s room are revealed to be the headlights of an oncoming car that collides head on with Helen. And here, her troubles truly begin.
Following recovery from her accident, Helen’s world begins to tilt on its access. Though she cannot remember the details, she has a brief but torrid affair with man-buned director Eddie (Adam Christie); she unconsciously begins drawing garish pictures emblazoned with nefarious directives (“Kill Him”); the painting gifted to her earlier moves to around her apartment seemingly of its own accord; she wakes in a haze up in her room, her body battered and bloody; and she sees fleeting visions of a female figure who – in a series of well edited jump cuts – is revealed to be a wild eyed doppleganger of herself.
“Leading to an inevitable reckoning of Helen’s two personas at that same motel where all things evil were set in motion…”
Suitably concerned, Helen seeks out a neurologist who, after a series of tests, reveals to her that she has “vanishing twin syndrome” – an actual disorder which occurs when a twin disappears in the uterus during pregnancy as a result of a miscarriage of a twin. The twin is then absorbed into the body of the surviving fetus. Helen’s mother, who earlier stabbed herself in an attempt to end her pregnancy, it turns out was carrying twins. One of the fetuses was indeed killed in utero but was subsequently was absorbed into the skull of the survivor – Helen. The car accident Helen suffered in the film’s first act somehow “activated” this long dormant twin who, according to the physician, is now growing at a rapid rate and is responsible for Helen’s loss of memory and erratic behavior. Suffice to say that Helen’s twin, after being cooped up in Helen’s bean for 23 years, is pissed and wants out.
Henceforth, Helen’s mental state begins to deteriorate even more seriously as her twin gathers strength leading to the inevitable reckoning of Helen’s two personas at that same motel where all things evil were set in motion from the film’s outset. This gives the director and cinematographer the opportunity to deliver some inventive and well rendered set pieces which are moody, effective, and – at moments – quite horrifying in ways that at moments recall Adrian Lyne’s superb nightmarish fever dream Jacob’s Ladder and Cronenberg’s seminal body horror flicks like Scanners.
Not to say there aren’t missteps. Some of the dialogue is a bit hamfisted and the narrative almost derailed by a few plot holes. Despite these quibbles, Let Her Out is a good night at the movies with scares aplenty and a cinematic style that pay off in spades.
Let Her Out (2016) Directed by Cody Calahan. Written by Adam Seybold. Produced by Chad Archibald, Cody Calahan, Christopher Giroux. Starring Alanna LeVierge, Nina Kiri, Adam Christie, and Brooke Henderson.
3 ½ out of 5 stars