It’s been two years since I visited a Laemmle Theatre and discovered the hidden gem, “Let the Right One In”, a 2008 Swedish vampire film. Well, I wasn’t the only one to take notice of this masterpiece that has the ability to take the vampire genre out of its current bloodbath of mediocrity. Hollywood’s remake, “Let Me In”, retains the moral ambiguity of the original film with a dash of the visceral that is all too familiar to the American horror genre. “Let the Right One In”, based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, was a phenomenal work of art, and “Let Me In”, proves that not all remakes are an insult to the original.
To replicate the Swedish predecessor’s snowy, small town landscape, “Let Me In” takes place in Los Alamos, New Mexico, in 1983. Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) spends most of his days avoiding school bullies, but at night he comes alive, creating imaginary scenarios where he isn’t the victim but the attacker. He wears a mask and stabs trees with his pocketknife, as he pretends to be in control of his own life.
Things change when Abby (Chloe Moretz) moves in to the apartment complex. You know the girl next door? That’s her. But what happends next isn’t the adorable young love that blossoms during lunchtime on the monkey bars, since Abby is far from the average 12-year-old. Step aside Edward Cullen and Bill Compton, there’s a new vampire on the scene and she shames the competition. We finally have a vamp who doesn’t sweat the small stuff, like chomping on the necks of innocent humans.
Director Matt Reeves, is quickly making himself a household name synonymous with engaging and experimental filmmaking. While he’s been in the television game for some time — making his feature film debut with “Pallbearer” in 1996 — things changed when he teamed with J.J. Abrams and created the viral sensation “Cloverfield”. Building on his newfound expertise in monster movies, Reeves proves that he can do more than special effects and viral film.
The beauty of a film like “Let Me In” is the amount of lesser-known talent, especially on the technical end. Greig Fraser’s cinematography is a magnificent exploration of space as the camera lingers on inanimate objects and focuses on actors’ faces, creating a claustrophobic feeling that truly helps us understand the life of isolated youth.
Composer Michael Giacchino (“Lost”, “Star Trek” and “Up”) captures the dilemma of befriending a creature of the night. What kind of foundation can exist when everyone around may be dinner for your closest friend? Giacchino’s score doesn’t settle for the horror film norm but basks in the juxtaposition between a fairy-tale-esque score sound and graphic visuals.
Chloe Moretz is quickly becoming the child actor of choice for R-rated fair. She stole the show in “Kick-Ass” as the preteen masked vigilante, Hit-Girl, chopping her way through villains and proving that her vocabulary is just as lethal as her sword. Now, Moretz tries on a more reserved role, shy but confident, and calming but evil. She plays the tortured monster with ease, yet she maintains an ominous energy that begs the question, what is she hiding? (You’ll just have to see to find out, I’ll never tell.)
Co-star, Kodi Smit-McPhee, made his major breakthrough last fall with the post-apocalypse drama, “The Road”. The film may be set in 1983, but Smit-McPhee’s performance is hard not to look at as a cautionary character — what might happen if a child is neglected, through school bullying, disturbing fantasies and hanging out with the local neck biter (this last point only ends well if the undead sparkle, otherwise there will be blood).
“Let the Right One In” focused on the relationship between the boy and the vampire girl, but “Let Me In” is a surprisingly relevant analysis of youth angst and the role of the family unit. While not the magnificent ballad its European counterpar was, “Let Me In” creates its own poetic story that moves between childhood innocence and brutal amoraliy. With but a few on-the-nose moments, this one’s got the acting, production and storyline that vampire stories deserve.
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