Let The Wrong One In opens with a Romanian castle at night, and a horse and carriage passing underneath – only for a group of loud, drunk Irish women to enter the frame. This is bride-to-be Sheila (Mary Murray) and her friends having a cheap hen party in Bucharest – and as Sheila strays from both her party and her fiancé in pursuit of a local man, she is attacked by a vampire.
Now it has been obvious from the title, riffing as it does on Thomas Alfredson’s Let The Right One In (2008), that the neck-biting undead will play a part in this latest feature from Conor McMahon (Dead Meat, 2004; Stitches, 2012) – but this prologue also serves to forge a direct link between Transylvanian myth and modern Irish reality. Even on-screen text announcing a shift in location to contemporary Dublin is presented in blood-red Gothic script, as though to suggest the past abiding in the present – and when Matt (Karl Rice) comes home late at night, he casts a distinctively Nosferatu-esque shadow over the front of the two-up two-down where he still lives with his Ma (Hilda Fay). This adult mamma’s boy could do with growing up and spreading his wings.
After an encounter in a nightclub toilet with Sheila, Matt’s estranged brother Deco (Eoin Duffy) – a feckless, untrustworthy junkie and the black sheep of the family – returns to the roost where he is no longer welcome, and rapidly shows signs of turning into a vampire. Deco’s presence also draws the trainspotting, vampire-hunting cabbie Henry (Anthony Head, a regular in TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer), the debt-seeking neighbour Frank (David Pearse), Sheila and her vampire friends (Louise Burke, Louise McCann), and Deco’s own girlfriend and enabler Natalie (Lisa Haskins). What ensues is a bloodsucking farce, as Matt tries to help Deco without himself getting bitten, and works through his own conflicted feelings of brotherly love and hate in a scenario where blood, in more than one sense, runs thicker than water.
Referencing a range of vampire flicks, as well as Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) for good measure, Let The Wrong One In not only literalises (and indeed banalises) its undead antagonists while milking the absurd incongruities of their new Irish setting (as 2014’s What We Do in The Shadows did in New Zealand), but also exploits the more metaphorical resonances of the vampire (with Deco’s new cravings for blood proving no less damaging and destructive than his previous addiction to heroin, while Frank makes the political observation that, “The real bloodsuckers are the ones in charge”).
McMahon’s film is silly and funny – and eventually very gory – and while its gags can be hit and miss, and the scenes outside of the house look cheap, arguably the low budget just adds to its amiably mundane schlubbiness. Along the way, it furnishes answers to questions whose importance you may never have realised: can vampires simply be defanged?; does a vampire need to be invited into a shed as much as into a house?; what would a vampire rabbit be like?; and does Ikea offer home-assembly coffins? In the end, we have travelled a long way from the Carpathians, or from classical gothic, as the vampire finds a new kind of domestic arrangement.
Strap: Conor McMahon’s infectious horror comedy brings Romanian vampirism to a dysfunctional home in Dublin.