Let Me In

28 Oct

Title: Let Me In
Year: 2010
Director: Matt Reeves
Writer: Matt Reeves, based on the screenplay and novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Cara Buono, Elias Koteas
MPAA Rating: R, strong bloody horror violence, language and a brief sexual situation
Runtime: 116 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%

Talk about a film that came in with grand personal expectations. Let Me In is, of course, the American version of the Swedish masterpiece Let the Right One In, which has to be one of the most original films I saw in all of the past decade,  and thus I was kind of scared to see how this one would do, what with the track record for remakes not being that great at all.

However once the pieces for this one started coming together I was given a glimmer of hope. Matt Reeves, the director, had only done Cloverfield prior to this one, but that one was good and that meant he had J.J. Abrams’ seal of approval which always means a lot. And then the two young stars came together, Chloë Moretz, fresh off her star-making turn in the amazing Kick-Ass, and Kodi Smit-McPhee, who had been terrific last year in The Road. So yes, I was happy about how this one shaped up, but I was still very cautious.

As for the final verdict: This one was amazing. It wasn’t as masterful as the original, but it really wasn’t that far off. Here’s the thing, this is a film that obviously took a lot from its source material, and everything that made the first one so damn special is still there, but it didn’t take too much to make it look like a straight-up copy, this one’s still a pretty wonderful film on its own right, and will definitely go down as one of my favorite remakes in recent memory. This film oozes with respect for its source material, but is still its own film, standing on its own two legs, and delivering a beautiful end result.

Like the original one, it offers a poetically beautiful and always haunting look at the life of a vampire. And, for those of us who have seen and adore the original one (and if you haven’t seen it, stop reading this now and go buy it), we know that this outlook doesn’t have any super-fast kinky sex scenes à la True Blood, nor any girly sparkly vampires à la Twilight. Instead it’s a much more realistic outlook, an outlook that knows things are much more brutal, much more desperate for the vampires. They need blood, they crave it, they literally can’t live without it. There’s no vegetarian diet like in Twilight or The Vampire Diaries, no drink replacement like in True Blood. There’s just blood, and the tremendous need they have for it.

Mr. Reeves is terrific at directing this one, because you can tell the guy has seen the original time and time again and has a tremendous amount of admiration for it, the tonality of it all is the same, the approach to the story is pretty darn similar, and the effect it has on us as an audience is just as effective. A part of me would like to have seen Let Me In without knowing how amazing the original was, to judge it just by itself, but another part of me loves having seen the original so many times, because I can tell where the differences are, how much it has been inspired by it, and how different in its sameness it is. And, ultimately, how damn good it is.

The story is basically the same, as it should be because it’s amazing. There’s a prepubescent boy, who’s lonely in a lonely town, who’s bullied at school and has no friends. And then there’s a girl, who moves to that town with her father and who instantly takes a liking to the boy, even though she first told him they could never be friends.

Chloë Moretz is amazing as Abby, she’s the vampire, obviously, who starts feeling protective of the boy, Owen. She’s amazing because, like pretty much every review of Kick-Ass said about her, she seems wise beyond her years, and that’s something Abby needs, she’s a vampire, she’s been around for quite a while, and even though physically she’s the same age as Owen, you see how she treats him like she’s the adult of the relationship, always wanting to protect him.

Chloë Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee are both phenomenal in this one, I really really loved their performances and thought they were exactly what they were supposed to be, and considering the performances they were drawing from, that’s no small task, they were both really top-notch. Also incredible was Richard Jenkins, one of the better character actors working today and who has an incredible range, from Step Brothers to Six Feet Under to his Oscar-nominated role in The Visitor, the guy is a very versatile actor, and in this one he plays Abby’s “protector”, the adult human companion that takes care of her.

There are very similar events, very similar shots, very similar colors in both versions. But this version offers a couple of new things, and some of them add nicely to the overall effect of the film, because, as I said, this would stand just as nicely on its own, not being compared to the original one. It’s not a worse film, it’s just different while being the same, and it’s beautiful, too, it’s everything it should be, and conveys the message from the original in a very adequate way. This is a real “vampire movie”, the love between Abby and Owen a real “vampire love”, there are no Cullen’s or Salvatore’s in here, no need for werewolves, just a need for a beautifully told love story that’s both more innocent and infinitely more compelling.

I say it’s different because, as I said, there are no blood-spilling sex scenes in here, it’s a love between two children, who love each other in their own different types of loneliness, and it seriously gets to you as an audience member. We feel for Owen, we get a lot of insight into him, we have Mr. Reeves to thank for that, and we know how ignored and alone he feels, how much shit is going on his mind before Abby arrives.

There are quite a lot of creepy scenes in this one, those of you who have seen the original will obviously recognize some of them, and the need for them, and the significance of them are all handled perfectly. Mr. Reeves is a very clever director, he knows what to use, what to do with these moments, what to show us and what to let us think for ourselves, he does this using some beautifully-shot takes with which he creates a terrific mood for the film, aided by a fantastic score by the great Michael Giacchino.

Sweden might have been swapped with New Mexico, but everything else is the same, the effect of the film, the tone, the performances, the perfection of it all. As I said, the original to me is the better film, but this one does enough things differently to no longer need that comparison and just be called by what it is: a beautiful film, that’s amazing in all the right ways and that will surely stay with you. And that’s really all it could have ever hoped to be, and all we ever could have wanted it to be, too.

Grade: A

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