Let Me In (2010) ***1/2
Written by: Matt Reeves
Produced by: Alexander Yves Brunner, Guy East, Donna Gigliotti, Carl Molinder, John Nordling, Simon Oakes, and Nigel Sinclair
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Rated R for strong bloody horror violence, language and a brief sexual situation
U.S. Release Date: October 1, 2010
As one of a wave of American remakes of critically successful foreign films, Let Me In tells John Ajvide Lindqvist’s story of a young boy who develops a close friendship with another girl in his apartment complex. The main point of interest in the film, however, is that the young girl is in fact not a young girl at all, she’s a vampire who is living in secrecy with her father while they collect blood for her to survive… human blood. The original Swedish version of this film, Let the Right One In (2008), is a very slow moving (but excellently crafted) story that focuses in on the relationship between the young boy and his new vampire friend. The American adaptation sticks fairly close to the structure of the original, with a couple of additions. Is a slow-going film, with slightly misleading marketing, something that common American audiences will go for?
Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a troubled middle school-aged boy from New Mexico. He is small in stature, boney and frail, which leads to his constant abuse from bigger kids at school, three boys in particular. The three bullies that Owen faces on a daily basis make his school life a living hell. While at home, his parents are going through a divorce and his mother is drinking her way through the troubling time. The young boy spends most of his days in silence as he survives school and keeps to his bedroom during the evenings and nights, until the night that he meets Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz). Owen is sitting outside in the snow and is startled when the barefoot girl silently approaches him and introduces herself. Though Abby is clearly carrying a secret, Owen still takes to her and they begin spending more and more time together.
Meanwhile, Abby’s father (Richard Jenkins) is tasked with keeping his daughter’s secret hidden, as well as finding a food source for her (a.k.a. dead people!). At night, Abby’s father takes to the streets in search for a lone person to abduct and harvest their blood. Most of his initial plans to harvest blood get foiled as he gets clumsier in his old age, resulting in coming home empty handed. This development begins to infuriate young Abby as she becomes unbearably hungry. In her nightly interactions with Owen, we can hear her stomach growl loudly. As she grows hungrier and hungrier, her urge to find her own “food” becomes too much to bear, and that’s where Let Me In gets really interesting.
The acting performances by the two young leads, Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Boy” in The Road) and Chloë Grace Moretz (most-known for her role as “Hit Girl” in Kick-Ass), are remarkable, especially given that they were 14 and 13 years old at the time of shooting, respectively. Smit-McPhee’s performance really brings the audience in to sympathize with a fragile young character that is tormented, emotionally and physically, everywhere he goes and can do nothing to protect himself. His constant turmoil makes you, the viewer, really look forward to the times that he spends with Abby, because even though you know she is a “monster”, their relationship is so delicate and warm, and you know that Abby can protect Owen if she needs to. It is a true “forbidden love” type of relationship that audiences can really get behind, in a macabre sort of way.
The visuals in this film are exquisite, as the color palette and cinematography really add to the dark and menacing overall feel of the picture. The whole film, color-wise, has a sepia, gray, and black look to it that gives it a similar but separate feel from its source material. The lighting, especially in the courtyard scenes with Owen and Abby, has a great hard light that casts a unique and beautiful light-and-shadow juxtaposition throughout those specific scenes.
The score by Michael Giacchino (you might recognize his music from Up, Star Trek, and the TV show LOST) is perfect for this film. In the original film, most of the silence goes unaccompanied by music, but in Let Me In, Giacchino’s score adds so much extra emotion to the scenes that need it. Look out for the beautiful main theme that reoccurs during the times Owen and Abby meet up with each other in the first half of the film.
Many critics and moviegoers were skeptical upon the announcement of an American remake of the very recent and successful Swedish film, Let the Right One In. Though compared to a fantastic film, Let Me In certainly stands on its own. The acting performances – especially from such young talent – are fantastic, the technical aspects of the filmmaking are executed really well, and the music adds a whole new dynamic to the film that is missing from the original. If you like vampire films (not glittery ones), these two young actors, Michael Giacchino’s music, or just good movies, you need to see Let Me In.