Let Me In
Directed by Matt Reeves. Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Grace Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas, Cara Buono. (2010, R, 116 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 1, 2010
You can breathe now. Let Me In, the American remake of Let the Right One In, Swedish director Tomas Alfredson's 2008 paeon to adolescent angst, love, and exsanguinary activities, is a doozie of a do-over. Scripted by Reeves and based on the novel and original Swedish screenplay by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let Me In moves the action from a lifeless and snowbound Stockholm suburb in the early Eighties to a lifeless and snowy New Mexico nowheresville in the early Eighties. Much of the story remains the same, but Reeves and Lindqvist throw some remarkably effective curveballs that not only heighten the original's existential sense of childhood (and by extension adult) dread but also serve as a reminder that the horrors and rare joys of preadolescence – real, imagined, or other – exist beyond the socially manufactured idea of borders. Let the Right One In was hailed (by myself among countless others) as one of the finest vampire films ever made, and Let Me In (which I've now seen twice, something I hardly ever do) is if not technically a better film, then certainly equal to the original. As before, this is a film that's not just about a tiny bloodsucker and her new best friend, but also a deeply moving, not to mention disturbingly accurate, portrait of youthful loneliness, peer brutality, and the stark, moment-by-moment hell that lies at the palpating heart of so many misfit kids' lives. (P.E. should be stricken from school curricula everywhere and the gymnasia hardwood set alight and sown with salt.) McPhee (The Road) turns in a note-perfect performance as 12-year-old Owen, a latchkey kid with no friends, almost no parents, and a new, tentative companion, Abby (Moretz), who has recently moved into Owen's apartment complex and strides through the swirling snowscape in dirty bare feet. The two are, it seems, well-suited to each other. Both are loners, and both have questionable identities (being children, those identities are not yet fully formed, or so it appears), and both exist in a cold and uncaring childhood world saturated to the marrow with depressingly bleak options or the lack thereof. It's hardly a spoiler to point out that Abby is a vampire, but Moretz (Kick-Ass' Hit Girl) brings an icy, menacing measure of seriously subtle nuances to the role, a difficult one for any actor. Together, McPhee and Moretz make these two "others" into a disturbingly cohesive whole. (The final shot beautifully and poetically sums up childhood malaise and the murderous rage that so often comes with it.) In addition to being a helluva horror film that transcends its genre roots to comment specifically and knowingly on the essence of the preadolescent outsider, Let Me In must be commended for its restrained and eerily atmospheric cinematography, courtesy of Australian Greig Fraser, who also lensed Nash Edgerton's "Spider." Fraser makes the most of the chiaroscuro provided by the contrast between the menacing white of recent snowfall and the steaming crimson that jets from the jugulars of Abby's unfortunate late-evening snacks. Indeed, Let Me In is by far one of the best-looking films of the year, genre or no genre. It's a nightmare, sure, but what childhood isn't?