Some way into Let Her Out, the latest film from Antisocial‘s director Cody Calahan, 23-year-old bike courier Helen (Alanna LaVierge) awakes on the platform of a desolate subway station, with the corpse of a man nearby, and the words “I AM HERE” painted roughly in blood on the floor. As she backs away in horror, her foot slides over the grisly graffiti and, in a literal ‘Freudian slip’, effaces the final ‘E’ to reveal a rather different message that points to the duality of our heroine’s identity.
Helen’s problem – her dilemma, so to speak – is that she is being stalked and haunted by a part of herself. A part that, after a long period of repression, has had enough of being stuck inside, and wants to get out. A part that, unlike prim, reserved Helen, is forward, sexually aggressive, even murderous. This other self is the Hyde to her Jekyll, the id to her ego – her evil twin, doppelgänger and dark reflection all in one – and it has come to turn Helen’s life upside down.
There are two primal scenes here. The first comes at the film’s beginning, when Helen’s mother-to-be (Brooke Henderson), a prostitute working out of a motel room, is raped by a client, and subsequently takes a knife to her pregnant belly. Baby Helen survives, and as an adult is often drawn to the motel where her mother had killed herself. The second primal scene is a freak accident just outside the motel, leaving Helen with broken bones, scars and a head injury – after which she begins to experience violent shifts in personality and regular blackouts. It is during the latter that her alter ego comes out to play, leaving taunting written messages for her hostess: theatrical cues (“KILL HIM”), Achilles’-heel insults (“WHORE BITCH”) and devilish double-entendres (“I AM COMING”).
“I’m fucking just like my mother!”, Helen tells her bestie-and-roomie Molly (Nina Kiri), in another double entendre. It is clear that the girl has mummy issues, terrified of the meretricious legacy that may be coursing through her veins. Yet in keeping with the uncanny demands of genre, everything here comes overdetermined, with pseudo-scientific and supernatural explanations for Helen’s dissociative identity disorder sitting alongside the purely psychological, so that we are never quite sure whether she is victim to an insidious and antagonistic entity, or is just her own worst enemy.
“I’m sorry, Molly, you know me, you’re my sister,” says Helen, apologising for her aberrant behaviour – to which Molly, angry and frustrated, responds, “You’re not my sister.” In the end, Let Her Out is about different sorts of sisterhood. There is the kind that Helen shares with the genetic remnants of her ‘vanishing twin’, embodying the bad blood that she worries is her natural inheritance – and then there is the kind that she shares with lifelong friend Molly. Yet wearing around her neck a two-faced pendant – representing comedy and tragedy – that she once stole from Molly (who is an actress), Helen will learn that an unhappy coup de théâtre becomes inevitable once the nice-girl mask and costume come off. The result is a hallucinatory trip through a woman’s split sense of identity – with the red light that illuminates Helen’s bedroom suggestive as much of her mother’s whorish past as of her own arrested self.
© Anton Bitel