Two years ago a small Swedish vampire film called Let The Right One In quietly swept across the U.S., quickly earning a cult status and following. When it was first announced that Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) was working on an Americanized remake, fans became worried. While I really enjoyed Let The Right One In, not being a purist, the news of Reeve’s, titled Let Me In, remake got me excited. A more easily accessible version of Let The Right One In was a good idea.
Set in Los Alamos, New Mexico in March 1983, after opening with an intriguing scene that quickly reels you in, Let Me In introduces us to our 12-year-old central character, Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Road). Although he is forced to deal with “grown-up” situations each day, Owen is as innocent a child as they come. He is constantly bullied at school and neglected by his absent father. Being in the middle of a divorce, Owen’s fanatically Christian mother has replaced him with a glass of wine. Yet while all of this is going on, Owen remains naive. He spends his time alone in the snowy courtyard of their apartment complex, savoring the sugary flavor of Now-and-Laters while singing the candy’s radio jingle to himself. Owen is an observer. He is able to sit back and watch things going on around him. No matter what he sees, for good or for bad, it never affects him personally.
One night, while peeping on the neighbors, Owen sees the complex’s newest residents arrive in a moving van – a man and his young daughter. We quickly learn that the man (Richard Jenkins, Eat Pray Love) is the caretaker of 12-year-old girl named Abby (Chloe Moretz, Kick-Ass) who requires drinking blood to survive. Just as curious as Owen is about Abby, Abby is more curious about him. Once the sun sets, Abby joins him in the courtyard for innocent conversation. Because of the things Owen has gone through and seen and the because Abby is a blood-thirsty vampire, you wouldn’t expect them to have a childlike relationship – but they do. Their connection creates a bond that rises above their gaps and problems. Both realize that they must sacrifice pieces of their lives for one another.
Although Let Me In captures the slow-pace and tone of Let The Right One In, Reeves makes the foreign film style work for American audiences. The scenes that show Abby’s “father” preying on average humans, collecting their blood for Abby, are magnificent. Considering there are only a handful of brief action sequences, Let Me In is so intimate that it becomes extremely intense – even if you have seen Let The Right One In and know what it going to happen next.
The story to Let Me In is so simple that I will not give any further detail to it here, but it is in that simplicity that the film truly succeeds. Reeves understands what good films are predicated upon and structures Let Me In accordingly. He knows that less is more. He knows that if you can create a plausible relationship between the characters and audience, it doesn’t matter how much action is in a movie to keep you wrapped-up and entertained. And his choice for setting the film in the early ’80s in middle America works wonders for Let Me In.
Hats off to child actors Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moritz. While watching these two interact, you forget that you are watching kid actors. They make you return to that innocent age without recognizing it. I have never wanted to watch two young actors more in my life. I will happily look forward to any future films they do with great anticipation – something I cannot say about most adult actors.
If you ripped out the glittery fantasy and the soap-opera love story that surrounds the self-proclaimed “saga” called Twilight, ground it in our reality with real vampires, then you would have Let Me In. Purists, you can address your hate mail to firstname.lastname@example.org because I am about to say it: Let Me In is a superior version of Let The Right One In. It is absolutely brilliant and beautiful – easily the best vampire film to date.
Photo credit: Overture Films