Let Me In (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
3Feb/110

Let Me In (2010)

ANDREW LIKEAfter my experiences with reviewing remakes over the last year I think that I'm going to have to start being a little more open minded about them.  Today's film, Let Me In, is a remake of the 2008 Swedish film Let The Right One In.  The short turnaround time between each movies filled me with a bit of apprehension as it seemed as though Let Me In was being shuttled out the door but I was horribly wrong.  Both films are fantastic, which is almost as rare as getting a good remake made to begin with, but take entirely different approaches to the same material.

Let Me In tackles the vampire mythos by trying to remove much of the Gothic pomp and circumstance surrounding the posturing of those old creatures.  Instead of treating vampirism as a one way trek to eternal sexiness it treats it as a festering disease and how the possibility of associating with something evil might be appealing depending on the alternatives.

The two main characters of Let Me In are Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Abby (Chloe Moretz).  Owen is a very unhappy child whose parents are going through a divorce and is mercilessly picked on at school.  One day, in the middle of the night, Abby and an older man (Richard Jenkins) move into the apartment next door.  Owen notices right away that she is walking barefoot through the snow and doesn't seem to radiate the warmth that the rest of our bodies produce.

Having walked barefoot in the snow before I can safely say that anyone doing so without shaking or vomiting is hiding something.

The film doesn't keep it very secret for long that Abby is a vampire.  Soon her caretaker is going out into the night looking for victims to capture and drain their blood so that Abby can feed.  If she doesn't she becomes feral very quickly and cannot control herself for very long.  Owen doesn't pay much attention to the news of the deaths and murders but is instead intrigued by this cold resistant girl who approaches him in the middle of the night.  They start talking and it's clear that the both of them are very lonely but Abby has one thing to say to Owen, "I can't be your friend."  But she may be his protector and soon she's giving him advice on how to deal with the bullies and promises that she'll look out for him if he ever needs her.

Because we see her kill people in a few ambushes we know what she's capable of and that doesn't bode well for anyone that may threaten Owen.  The question is how long before more blood is spilled and until Abby and her caretaker are discovered by a detective (Elias Koteas) who is searching for answers about the murders.

Let Me In is remarkably effective on a number of levels.  First, it works more as a psychosexual character study of children in development and how those urges may play out in violent ways as we grow up.  Owen is picked on partly because the bully doesn't know how to process his hormonal feelings and somehow sees Owen as a threat to his ego.  Second, it's a very effective horror film that is well directed by Matt Reeves of Cloverfield fame.  I thought Cloverfield was a well handled horror film but there wasn't much there to suggest how excellently he is able to handle the slow and tense burn of built of violence and aggression here.  There are a number of stylish moments throughout Let Me In that I was very impressed by, including an early ambulance ride with the snow beating down in a creepy strobe-light effect and a particularly impressive car crash that owes a slight debt to Fight Club.

Owen's torture at the hands of the school bullies was very violent and hit a little too close to home for myself.

The acting is similarly good.  Chloe Moretz is a great young actress and does a fine job playing a creature that only really knows how to feed and run, long forgetting how old it is or when it's birthday ever was.  Richard Jenkins continues to be one of my favorite character actors and is able to suggest so much of he and Abby's history with a slight strain in his eyes.  It was Kodi Smit-McPhee's performance as Owen that really made me connect to the film though.  He has to go through quite a few humiliating situations with his treatment by the bullies and his continued fascination with the dangers that Abby represents.  It's a mature and scared performance, one that my own history with the kind of bullying present made me connect to a bit more, but incredibly effective nonetheless.

Both Swedish and American versions have their own strengths and weaknesses.  The American version is a bit too obsessed with the violent parts of the story but works better as a horror film and focuses on the psychosexual development of the characters.  The Swedish version poses a few too many questions and scenarios that it's version of the film isn't ready to answer, but works more as a black comedy and mood piece.  My tastes run toward the psychological side and I liked the look of the American version more but both films are spectacular.

What both films have in common is a willingness to recognize just how easy it is to feel alone and overlooked when we're little and how true that often is.  Children are capable of great cruelty and violence when left to their own devices and the scars of those times are too easy to hide and too often dismissed as lies.  Let Me In understands this better than most films and pulls out the true horror in what can happy.  Would you wish death on your bullies?  I remember wishing it and this film reminds me of just how grateful I am that it never happened.

Let Me In (2010)
Directed by Matt Reeves.
Screenplay by John Ajvide Lindquist.
Starring Chloe Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Richard Jenkins and Elias Koteas.

Posted by Andrew

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