“Let Us In,” a kids-fighting-evil movie in the vein of “The Goonies” (1985) and Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” is creepy-cute and cheerfully corny. Directed by Craig Moss and inspired by an urban legend, the story (by Moss and JW Callero) plunks us down in a fictitious small town where teenagers have been mysteriously vanishing.
The first pair we meet clearly didn’t get the memo that necking in the woods after dark is asking for trouble. And when a group of foul-smelling, dark-eyed adolescents menacingly materializes — the leader asking, “Will you let us in?” — the resulting attack is soon followed by others. While parents and law enforcement remain oblivious or skeptical, 12-year-old Emily (Makenzie Moss) and her friend, Christopher (O’Neill Monahan), begin sleuthing.
Reaching back fondly to the 1980s and 90s, Moss seeds his movie with familiar faces (Tobin Bell is, of course, the town weirdo), generic setups (though one eerie scene makes the most of an after-hours coffee shop) and silly science fiction. Yet the film’s derivativeness — residents literally fight darkness with light — is countered by strong acting from the two leads and a director who just might be having the time of his life.
That apparent delight seeps into almost every frame, giving the film a guileless warmth that drew my good will. (Though Moss already had that when he cast Judy Geeson — a stalwart of notable dramas and lurid thrillers since the 1960s — as Emily’s grandmother.) The villains of “Let Us In” don’t do much besides lurk and pounce, but, for their director, that seems to be enough.