Craig Moss has brought a variety of comedy and action to the big screen with the Twilight spoof Breaking Wind (2012) and the Danny Trejo–starred Bad Ass franchise. He is trying something new in the family sci-fi thriller in Let Us In. I had the opportunity to speak to the director about the urban legend that inspired the film, casting Saw franchise star Tobin Bell and the contrast filming adult and child actors. "I was doing some research trying to find something to inspire me for the next film. I was searching suburban legends and ran across this urban legend for the black-eyed kids, which I found incredibly intriguing," Moss said. "These teenagers with these hoodies and completely black eyes. There are no whites in their eyes, and they go to people in their vulnerable moments and up to the door of their house. They knock on the door and ask to be let in. People swore by this that it happened to them. I told [writer] Joe [Callero], who wrote this telling him that I think this would be such a cool idea. We kind of created this story around this 12-year-old girl who lives is in a small town and where these black-eyed kids start to infiltrate, and some kids start to go missing. That became sort of the jumping-off point for the story."
When it came to playing his older lead, Frederick Munch, it was an easy sell for the venerable character actor. "Tobin was terrific," Moss said. "We really wanted him and were lucky enough that he had the availability to do the movie. He couldn't be just a nicer guy and wanted to make sure that he was very prepared. He wanted to make sure that the film was going to be great. He loved the screenplay, his character, and the idea that it was a 12-year-old female protagonist in the story. He came in, and he knew exactly how the character needed to be played, which is great. His relationship with the kids was terrific, generous, and worked really well with them. It was just such a great pleasure to do the movie with him because you really don't know what you're going to get when you work with actors that are at that level who show up, whether they're just doing it for a paycheck or they really care. He really cares, and so that was amazing. I hope to work with him again in the future."
Filming with younger actors creates its own complications with his leads, like his own daughter Makenzie Moss, O'Neill Monahan, and Sienna Agudong. "The main difference is the amount of time in the day you have to shoot kids because they have shorter hours than adults," Moss said. "When you're shooting an independent film like this where you have like a limited amount of days to finish the movie, and then on top of it, you have shortened hours for the kids. They have to also have a break for school on set since they have teachers and have just a shortened workday. The time itself gets very compressed and when you've got your lead is a child, and the supporting cast is also children, you've got to navigate through all that. It makes it harder in that respect. This cast we had as kids were phenomenal. The performances were terrific. They worked really hard, and they really dedicated themselves to making this film great."
Moss was fortunate that Let Us In was all filmed before the pandemic, and only post-production work had to be done. He would like to spread his wings more as a filmmaker. "Yeah, I love the genres that I've been lucky enough to get so far between comedy, action-comedy, thriller, sci-fi thriller," he said. "I mean, it's all of them have been terrific, and just being able to make films is the best part of it all. Being able to kind of hop around and do different genres is amazing. I would love to continue to do this genre among the others that I've done before, and I'm open to doing others as well. It's what makes the kind of exciting and challenging too." The film from Samuel Goldwyn Films, which also stars Sadie Stanley, Heather Ann Gottlieb, Lauren Stamile, and Sky Alexis, comes on digital and on-demand on July 2nd.