Dylan Minnette, Carla Buono
- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Overture Films
Reviewed by David Medsker
et Me In” is a faithful-to-a-fault adaptation of the 2008 Swedish import “Let the Right One In.” There is really no need for anyone who’s seen the original to see this – unless they would prefer to simply watch the movie in English, rather than read the pesky subtitles – as writer/director Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”) has recreated it nearly scene for scene and line for line. This may preserve the sanctity of the story, and the end result is quite good, but it also leaves the movie with a bit of an identity crisis.
Set in a small New Mexico town in the early ‘80s, Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a bullied tween who’s just trying to survive school. His parents are getting a divorce, and his mother is too wrapped up in her own issues to see that her son needs help. His life starts to look up when a 12-year-old girl named Abby (Chloe Moretz) moves into the apartment next door with her guardian (Richard Jenkins). Owen is instantly smitten, though Abby warns him that they can’t be friends. Before long, Owen discovers Abby’s terrible secret: she’s a vampire, and her guardian is essentially her go-fer for fresh blood. As “Father” gets sloppy at his work, Abby gets closer to Owen, teaching him to stand up for himself against his tormentors. Owen is happier than he’s been in ages, but he is blissfully unaware of Abby’s hidden agenda.
This isn’t a boo-jump kind of horror movie. There are no traps, no monsters hiding behind shower curtains, and no naked teenagers. It’s a relationship story that is cute on the surface but teeming with sadness, augmented with buckets of blood. We never find out how old Abby is, nor does it matter. She is clearly wiser than she lets on, and is very careful to act her “age” when it comes to handling the delicate Owen. We’re grateful to Abby for being the one person to notice Owen and teach him long-overdue life lessons, but it comes at a hell of a cost. That kind of dysfunctional pairing is a tough sell, to be sure, but the story pulls it off rather effortlessly.
Pity the CGI is so awful. Every time Abby goes for the kill, she morphs into some rabid, Gollum-esque beast, when looking human would have done just fine. (The CGI flames that appear later are even worse.) Another problem, albeit a smaller one, is that Reeves did such a good job recreating the look and feel of the original that he forgot to put much of an individual stamp on his version, save one great long shot from the back seat of a car. He makes up for this, though, by coaxing powerful performances from his leads. McPhee – if someone ever does a movie about Supergrass, McPhee has to play lead singer Gaz Coombes – is hauntingly good as the timid, passive-aggressive Owen, while Jenkins makes the most of his screen time as Abby’s weary but still lovestruck indentured servant. Moretz actually has the easiest job here, playing Abby as a largely quiet, composed girl who only resorts to acts of aggression when she has to. Best of all, Reeves kept the story’s original ending intact, which is utterly heartbreaking.
Our friend Kevin Carr referred to “Let Me In” as an art house horror film, and he has a point. Stephenie Meyer would have you believe otherwise, but there is nothing romantic about falling in love with a vampire, and “Let Me In” lays that out in blunt fashion, while simultaneously exploring the contradictory nature of relationships and the hell that is junior high school. Movies this bloody are rarely this heady. It’s one trend we wouldn’t mind seeing catch on.
Single-Disc Blu-ray Review:
Criminally overlooked at the box office, "Let Me In" is a must-rent for horror buffs, and thankfully Overture didn't let its disappointing box office gross lead them to skimp on the bonus features. There is a nice featurette on the making of the movie, and another one dedicated solely to the excellent tracking shot in the car. The special effects get their own feature (though that one was a mistake, since the CGI was not terribly good), and there are three deleted scenes, one of which should have remained in the movie. Director Matt Reeves contributes an audio commentary, and there is a picture-in-picture feature as well, popping up anecdotes about making the movie. Let this one into your Netflix queue.