Typically, people reading this review will either have seen (or at least have heard of) the Swedish novel or subsequent movie “Let The Right One In,” or they are intrigued by the trailers of “Let Me In” and have no idea it’s an American re-make. I am in between those two groups, because when I heard about the making of “Let Me In,” I rented the Swedish 2008 version “Let The Right One In” to prepare for its upcoming American counterpart.
In 2004, Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist penned a vampire fiction book that became a best-seller, and has been translated into over 12 different languages. Then, in 2008, there was a Swedish movie made from the book that went on to gain critical acclaim from audiences and critics the world over. It comes as no surprise that Hollywood took notice and with the recent surge of vampire-related movies and shows, director Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”) decided to take on this story and bring it to the attention of the American public.
It’s the late 1980s in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and we meet loner Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee. His mother has turned to alcohol because of her messy divorce from Owen’s father and Owen is pretty much on his own. Being scrawny, he is targeted by a few older and larger bullies, and being emasculated early on in the film he fantasizes about what it would be like to seriously hurt them back. Owen also likes to watch his neighbors with his telescope from his bedroom window and is intrigued when a young girl Abby (Chloe Moretz) and her father (Richard Jenkins) move next door to him. Seeing her outside in the snow with no shoes on and her father leaving in the middle of the night carrying a duffle bag, Owen knows something just isn’t right. Hearing yelling and fighting through the wall into Abby’s apartment next door has him even more curious about these newcomers, so when he sees Abby outside at night, he tries to befriend her and he is hurt when she tells him that they cannot be friends.
Things in the town start to escalate when a policemen (Elias Koteas) comes to the school to tell the kids there has been a murder of a former student and that all students need to be on their guard. Owen has an odd feeling about this news, but doesn’t really indulge it and pushes it to the back of his mind. Every night when Abby is down in the apartment courtyard, he talks to her and obviously has a crush on her. She tells him to stand up for himself with the school bullies and to hit back, but the more Owen is around Abby the more he sees the darkness hidden within and that he could be in way over his head. The closer they get the more oddities he begins to notice with Abby and her father and with every new murder or disappearances, the puzzle pieces begin to fit together, all pointing to Owen’s new neighbors. Will the police figure it all out before it’s too late for another citizen in the small town of Los Alamos? Will Owen ever be able to accept Abby for what she truly is?
It is no secret that Abby is a vampire, that being the main reason a lot of people will go see this movie, but this is not a traditional vampire movie in the broad sense that it is about an emotional connection between two people and the turmoil of life for each and how their friendship lifts the dark cloud from above each of them for a bit. This movie is sad, moving and well acted, none of which are words you typically hear when talking about typical horror movies. Director Matt Reeves takes the original story and tweaks it just enough to make it more accessible to the American viewing public, moving its location, changing a few scenes around, adding more back-story to some characters while emphasizing others. I think “Let Me In” is beautifully poetic at times, while being truthful and gruesome at others.
The two young actors on whom the film relies do an amazing job of playing up the innocence you would expect from a child while also harboring a bigger secret and darkness within. Chloe’s Abby is a lot more flushed out than in the original. She shows more emotions and is a lot more sensual, which makes sense because she is a very much older person trapped in the body of a 12 year old. Kodi’s Owen is along the same lines as the original, being pushed aside by his family and friends and ignored — I can see how he is able to embrace and fantasize about gruesome acts. But the pinnacle of the movie is set up around them forming a bond and I believed it.
The cinematography and lighting definitely helped set the mood for the film; a yellowish hue during the night scenes helped create an uneasy feeling surrounding Abby and her interactions with her father and Owen. Each angle and shot helped put the viewer close to the action and that enhanced each feeling in the scene. I liked the feral nature of Abby when she went into vampire hunting mode, but I wasn’t a big fan of how they used CG for her when she was attacking, looking like a cross between a rabid monkey and a spider was a bit out of place when the rest of the movie was this up close raw look at these two people.
Overall, this movie can either stand alone if you have never seen the Swedish original or if you’re a fan of the original you can appreciate this movie and the subtle changes it made. I was entertained and impressed at the way this was re-created and yet still feels like its own work of art. Either way, I am all for re-makes if it helps bring an amazing story to a new audience. So if you like tales of vampires, drama, emotional turmoil, loss of innocence and friendship I suggest you see both versions of the film. You’re bound to love at least one.
“Let Me In” is in theaters now and is rated R for: strong bloody horror violence, language and a brief sexual situation.
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