Title: Let Me In
Directed By: Matt Reeves
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas, Dylan Minnette
It’s one thing to remake a film years after its release, but writer-director Matt Reeves faced one heck of a challenge making an American version of the fantastic Swedish film, Let the Right One In. Not only is Let the Right One In one of the greatest vampire movies ever made, but it only came out two years ago. Reeves’ version, Let Me In, may not quite validate giving this story another go-around so soon, but that’s not to say it isn’t a wildly enjoyable and astoundingly well-done film.
Kodi Smit-McPhee is Owen, a 12-year-old boy living with his mother in Los Alamos, New Mexico. It’s 1983 and Owen’s only salvation from his parents’ divorce and the bullies at school is the time he gets to spend alone at night in the courtyard of his apartment complex. One evening, his privacy is invaded by another 12-year-old (more or less), Abby (Chloe Moretz). Abby just moved into the apartment next door, but informs Owen right from the start that the two cannot be friends.
Regardless, Abby and Owen continue to meet in the courtyard and slowly begin to build a relationship. Owen introduces Abby to the Rubik’s Cube, candy and Morse Code, but she offers little in return for she’s hiding a secret. She can’t stomach the candy, is immune to the cold and must be formally invited inside before entering Owen’s home. To top it all off, Abby needs blood to live; she’s a vampire.
Let Me In is nearly identical to Let the Right One In. Moretz and Smit-McPhee look nothing like the Swedish film’s stars, Kare Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson, yet their characters are practically the same. However, Let Me In isn’t quite a straight remake. The film may include a significant amount of dialogue and events from the first film, but its parallels are slightly askew both in tone and happenings.
Thanks to Michael Giacchino’s haunting original music, the film’s terrifying undertone is established from the instant it begins. Light-hearted moments are short lived for Giacchino’s ominous beating bass is bound to creep back in signifying danger. Further enhancing the foreboding sensation is Greig Fraser’s cinematography. The visuals are as far from straightforward as they come with Fraser frequently using appropriately off-kilter angles and framing bound to make any viewer uneasy.
But of course, neither the music nor the cinematography would be as powerful if it weren’t for the stellar performances of the entire cast. Both Richard Jenkins as Abby’s guardian and Elias Koteas as the policeman investigating the mysterious murders make for fantastic yet subdued adult forces. They manage to make quite an impact and are responsible for some of the film’s most terrifying scenes, but never overshadow the stars, the kids.
The chemistry between Moretz and Smit-McPhee is astounding. Both are such naturals on screen individually that when combined, they can bring even the simplest of dialogue to life. Their characters are quite shy and speak in a whisper using as few words as possible, but don’t require much more. Moretz and Smit-McPhee achieve the most with facial expressions and simplistic actions using words as a mere bonus. And Let Me In’s leads aren’t the only young actors that impress, so does Dylan Minnette as Owen’s adversary Kenny. Kenny is no ordinary school bully. He may resort to painful wedgies at times, but his actions are so malicious, regardless of age, he’s got the power to terrify any audience member.
That’s really what makes Let Me In different from Let the Right One In; Let Me In is more of a horror film. Yes, Reeves opts to up the gore and enhance evil Abby with special effects, but even beyond the typical horror visuals, Let Me In is far more frightening that the 2008 version. In fact, the effects aren’t really necessary at all. At times Moretz’s glowing vampire eyes and fangs can be a little distracting. The movie is so scary in itself, the extra push to shock is completely unnecessary.
There are also a few other needless plot additions Reeves tosses in that are confusing rather than elements used to differentiate the two films, however, there are also segments from Let the Right One In that Reeves does away with that makes the story far more effective in other aspects. Regardless of all of these minor changes, Let Me In is really a very similar experience to Let the Right One In. It’s hard to say the remake is totally justified for we just lived the story two years ago, but it’s still a wonderfully made film and makes living that experience immensely enjoyable all over again.
By Perri Nemiroff