Let Me In (2010)

Director:  Matt Reeves
Cast:  Kodi Smit-McPheeChloĆ« Grace Moretz, Richard Jenkins
Plot:  A bullied young boy befriends a young female vampire who lives in secrecy with her guardian.

Genre:  Drama / Fantasy / Horror
Awards:  -
Runtime:  116min
Rating:  NC16 for strong bloody horror violence, language and a brief sexual situation.

“You have to invite me in.

Let Me In is the Hollywood remake of Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In (2008), the quite extraordinary Swedish horror-drama that was based on an original screenplay by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the novel of the same name.

Here, Matt Reeves, the director of the hit monster movie Cloverfield (2008), uses Lindqvist’s material, and delivers a very faithful adaptation, albeit in a way that probably would not raise any eyebrows. There is not much to fault in Let Me In story and character-wise, but there were a couple of decisions that Reeves made that left me wanting.

The film is a bittersweet love story between two pubescent teenagers. Their names are Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz). Owen lives with his mother, who’s getting a divorce, in a small town that nobody moves to in New Mexico.

One winter night, Owen meets Abby, the new girl who just moved in. Nights later, they become close friends after some tender moments together with a Rubik’s cube. Oblivious to Owen’s knowledge, Abby is actually a vampire, thus needing human blood to survive, which is the reason for the town’s recent slate of gruesome killings.

As voyeuristic as James Stewart’s character in Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954), Owen soon realizes that there is a link between the killings and the girl next door whom he is infatuated with. One misstep by Reeves is his treatment of the psychosexual tension between Owen and Abby, which is almost non-existent here, but was quite adequately fleshed out by Alfredson in Let the Right One In.

In addition, while the violence is at times horrific, it seems to be Hollywoodized, which brings us to the director’s second misstep – the use of CGI to “enhance” Abby’s vampirical features in scenes of bloodlust attacks. This artificialization of Abby’s facial features, I feel, alienates the core appreciators of Alfredson’s film who would see this as an attack on the original’s unfantastical and humanistic elements.

The acting, however, remains strong, in particular Moretz’s, whose stock in Hollywood has risen tremendously after her butt-kicking role in Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass (2008). Her role as Abby (who is as violent, and blood-lusting a character as Hitgirl) is a different challenge altogether, demanding a more nuanced, dramatic approach as opposed to the all-action, I-am-Rambo attitude of the latter.

The entire film is paced slowly, but Reeves’ non-intrusive camerawork allows a sense of unease to build up, which explodes in a terrifying infliction of extreme violence by an individual on a group of antagonists in the film’s climax (albeit let down by the intentional use of dim lighting that does not give a wide-eyed, surrealistic feel apparent in Let the Right One In). 

Let Me In is a faithful but average reworking of one of the best foreign films of 2008. This time, it tries too hard to please American fans of the traditional vampire-horror genre when the film itself is not exclusively categorized as such.

GRADE: C+ (6.5/10 or 3 stars)

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