|Principal Cast||Chloe Grace Moretz as Abby|
Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen
Richard Jenkins as Thomas
|Running Time||116 minutes|
This is a hard movie for me to rate and I’ve struggled with coming up with a number for a long time. I initially saw the movie in 2011 and thought it was amazing. I was completely enamored and couldn’t stop thinking about it. It got me reading the Wikipedia page to find more information ,and I saw that it was a remake of a Swedish movie called Let the Right One In, which itself is based on a novel of the same name. I thought it’d be fun to see the original movie and read the book to see how the Reeves version compared. The process left me in a strange position. While the Reeves version is stellar in composition, it comes off feeling like a replica of the original movie with an English dub. There are slight changes in setting, the starting point the movie leaps off from, and the way the theme of growing up is handled, but it’s not enough to make the movie feel like something wholly unique (like Evil Dead vs The Evil Dead) .
For those of you unacquainted with the book or 2008 movie, the story follows an ostracized young child, Owen, who’s struggling to find his place in life. He’s bullied at school and can’t really relate the adults around him. Eventually a young “girl”, Abby, moves in next door. Unbeknownst to Owen, Abby’s actually a vampire. As the two interact more often, a budding friendship is born, and their lives are radically changed. Given that information, the opening shot of the movie feels completely out of place with audience expectations. It starts in on a disfigured individual who jumps to his death from a hospital building, leaving behind a note that says “I’m sorry Abby.” This initial scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie and tinges the experience with a more sinister sense of mystery. Who’s the person , how did they end up there, and why were they apologizing? It gives the movie a lot of action before the slower paced story kicks in and is one of the unique things Reeves did to spice up his adaptation.
Traditionally, coming-of-age stories are about trying to find your path and footing in the world. The unpredictable chaos of everything combined with hyper-active hormones leads to a sense of confusion and wonder. Trying to determine how characters will progress becomes part of the fun. This movie subverts that expectation and is another original Reeves move. Adults are reduced to mere outlines of human interaction. Owen is rarely shown interacting with them and when he does those moments are often reduced to trite conversations with little weight. Hell, in a move I really like, Reeves never shows Owen’s mom’s face. The absence of any positive adult influence makes the progression of Owens story easy to predict, so if you like trying to guess or interpret those types of the things, you may feel like the movie tells you too much. However, if you accept the conclusion, the movie takes on this cool surreal feeling. It’s almost poetic watching the foregone conclusion slowly play out.
Smit-McPhee and Moretz knock it out of the park and give the movie a real heart and spirit. Their chemistry as friends is genuinely touching to watch and reminded me of a lot of moments in my childhood. You can see them warm up to each other, and because the movie takes its time, the subsequent places they go feel emotionally satisfying. Smit-McPhee really hits the nail on the head of bullied kid who desperately wants to feel like he has agency again. He manages to be creepy but sympathetic. You want him to find a path to happiness, even if he gives you the heebie jeebies with his weird masculine inducing rituals. Moretz absolutely nails child vampire. She’s innocent, but she’s also horrifying. She asks basic questions like “What’s a girlfriend?” but then has to consume other people’s blood to survive. None of these shifts feel out of character and it keeps Abby feeling complex.
Just because this is a romance with cute moments of friendship doesn’t mean it’s sunshine and daisies all the time. People are brutally murdered and their blood canvasses the white snow. The contrast is stunning and makes it clear that violence pervades our everyday existence. It can come from anywhere and doesn’t line up with what we think. The visual effects team does a great job at showing the horrors of vampire life by demonstrating the consequences of breaking vampire rules and by making the kill sequences feel deliberately violent. You can feel the pain respective character’s go through. Out of the two movies, I think this one is more visceral in its scares, so if that’s something you’re looking for you should check this out.
|TLDR||Even if Let Me In feels a little too derivative of its 2008 Swedish counterpart, its worth giving a watch if you’re looking for a coming-of-age romance with a horror twist. It’s equal parts heartwarming and horrifying and has some of the best child performances I’ve ever seen. I may rag on the movie for feeling like a clone of the original, but that’s not a bad thing. It means it has a great story, memorable characters, poignant and relevant themes, and great horror sequences. Reeves definitely refines and polishes some of these elements and I appreciate him making the movie more accessible to a widespread audience. I just wish that the movie felt more distinct .|
Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!