Being someone who has read a bit about urban legends and creepypastas, I could not resist the opportunity to sit down and talk with Craig Moss, the director of the new film, Let Us In, a family-friendly horror flick surrounding one of those myths that I actually have had secondhand experience with… read on through our interview to find out more!
PopHorror: What inspired you to take on a modern urban legend like the black-eyed children and adapted it into a family/teen-oriented horror film?
Craig Moss: Well, what happened was we wanted to make a film, and when I was researching urban legends, that one stood out amongst all of the others. It was so interesting and creepy. I just thought, “Wow, this would make a great movie.” I’m honestly surprised that that nobody had already made it after hearing this urban legend. I told Joe [Callero], whom I co-wrote the screenplay with. We knew that we wanted to set it around these teenagers. We also knew we wanted a younger cast because we felt that, in this genre in particular, there are a lot of films that have come out recently that have had a 12-year-old female protagonist. We wanted to make it family friendly as well. So that was the intent going into it. We wanted to make sure there were scary moments and some creepiness and to give ourselves some space to do that and not water it down. That was the the whole idea when moving forward to make the film.
PopHorror: There is a lot of intensity to the black-eyed children, and you make them pretty brutal without delivering gore or anything that could dissuade a family viewing.
Craig Moss: Right. Yeah, we didn’t want to gore or blood, any of that. We didn’t want this over-the-top gruesomeness. We wanted to make it a little more subtle, but at the same time, try to evoke fear and some scariness into it.
PopHorror: Are you familiar with creepypastas?
Craig Moss: I am now, but I wasn’t until I researched the black-eyed kids.
PopHorror: Do you have another favorite one that’s really stuck with you?
Craig Moss: It was funny because we made a list. There were the melon heads and one that involved the rabbit, the bunny basket, too. I remember making a list, and we were going through each one. But then we saw the black-eyed kids and the fact that people swore by it. They thought it was true, that it happened to them. Just made it even more creepy.
PopHorror: Oh, absolutely. When my editor actually sent me the the PR kit for this, I knew I wanted to take it on because I had family members sending me emails about black-eyed children and to keep an eye out for them. I know this is an urban legend but this was a thing I had family members genuinely concerned about for a while.
Craig Moss: It’s unbelievable. Yeah, people really buy into it, and who knows, maybe they did get approached by them. But I personally knew nothing about it before researching it. However, my kids and my nephew were aware of it, so I knew that there was some popularity amongst the youngsters about this whole thing. I know that there was a journalist that just happened to write a whole piece about it, and then it went viral through Europe and around the world.
PopHorror: Yeah, I was doing research last night, and I saw that it was tagged along with the film. That was a little rabbit hole I went down for a little bit.
Craig Moss: Oh yeah, absolutely. You get lost in it.
PopHorror: This is probably my favorite question to ask any directors that I get to interview: what is your favorite scene or special effect from a horror movie?
Craig Moss: Can I tell you, when I was younger, we had a thing called Z Channel where you’d be able to watch movies at home. This was the late ’70s. It was the first foray into cable. And I remember Damian: The Omen II came on. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that film. And I was probably 10-years-old or something at the time, and every scene in that movie, that kid just creeped me out. I remember watching it when I was home alone, and I couldn’t sleep for months after that. I don’t know why I never just turned off the TV, but it just kept me wanting to watch between the kid, the visuals, and the score. To this day, it’s the creepiest thing I have ever seen. At some point, I need to revisit that movie to see if it if it still holds up to the memories I had as a kid watching it. Oh my God, it’s scarred me for forever.
PopHorror: Yeah, I can definitely relate. The original Exorcist was certainly like that for me. Linda Blair’s eyes with the contacts really got to me as a kid.
Craig Moss: Yeah, absolutely.
PopHorror: You’ve done a lot of action and comedy, and of course, some horror before now, but all in the general unrated/R rating area. What made you decide to push for Let Us In to be more family and teen approachable?
Craig Moss: First off, I have two daughters, and Mackenzie stars in the movie. Having kids, you start to look at things differently. And you watch things that are different than what you used to watch. With that being the foundation, I wanted to delve into this area of filmmaking. For this demographic and when we came across this urban legend, the black-eyed kids. It seemed suitable to put the story in this setting. With a cast this age and targeting it for this age group, everything came at the same time, and it just seemed like the obvious way to go. And then, we also felt like there weren’t a lot of recent movies that filled this void. We had a lot of those kind growing up, between E.T. and The Goonies and all these other movies, but it seems like there’s a lack of that for this time period, so we thought it made sense to dive into this.
PopHorror: I think that’s a very creditable idea, because really, what does this generation of pop culture have? Stranger Things? Yeah, and that’s more of an ’80s flashback.
Craig Moss: Right. And that’s really it for the most part. That was the idea going forward.
PopHorror: You mentioned that your daughter is one of the leads. I noticed you actually use a lot of modern slang. Props to you and your production for that. You use it pretty correctly. Did you go to your daughter for input on how to use it?
Craig Moss: The funny thing is that I’m in the car lab with my daughter’s friend’s truck listening to how they talk to each other. On top of that, Mackenzie became a co-producer on this film, and she was instrumental in consulting about the dialogue on the screenplay. A lot of stuff that I put into the dialogue that are relevant. She would help me fine tune things. She would also help with the casting process. I’m used to casting adults in the films I’ve done in the past, and I didn’t have a handle on kids and what was popular. She was instrumental in helping me figure out how to navigate through that whole process. So it was helpful having a 12-year-old be a part of the film, both behind and in front of the camera.
PopHorror: Yeah, I can definitely see that so many productions nowadays seem like they’re written by 50-year-old executives who don’t have any experience around kids, so they’re just going to Urban Dictionary and guessing…
Craig Moss: Exactly. In other words, a middle-aged guy writing dialogue for female teens can be even creepier than the scares in the movie.
PopHorror: Truly, that’s what I want to give you credit for.
Craig Moss: I appreciate that. Thank you.
PopHorror: One final question: is there anything else you’d like to talk about or promote before we go?
Craig Moss: Just this film right now. We’re very excited about it. It’s being released on July 2, 2021, on all digital platforms, and as I said before, it’s fun for the whole family. And funnily enough, a lot of adults have seen this film and really enjoyed it, which has been nice to hear. So it’s great for everyone. Be sure to check it out on July 2nd!