'Let Me In'
(Chloe Moretz, Kodi McPhee, Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas, Cara Buono, et al / R / 93 mins)
Overview: Cloverfield's Matt Reeves adapts Tomas Alfredson's cult Swedish hit Let the Right One In with this remake for the Overture/Hammer Films production. The horror pic, based on author John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel, concerns a bullied 12-year-old boy (The Road's Kodi Smit-McPhee) whose friendship with a new female neighbor (Chloe Moretz) coincides with a series of bloody murders in their small town.
Verdict: Those fearing the arrival of Let Me In, Matt Reeves's remake of the almost universally adored vampire film Let The Right One In, shouldn't get in a tizzy. This redo is fiercely reverential to its Swedish predecessor and made with a care and love that puts it proudly next to Thomas Alfredson's original. Perhaps the only criticism that can be levelled in its direction is that someone else got there first.
Writer-director Reeves anchors his early-'80s version in a small New Mexico town in the grips of winter, injecting urgency from the outset as an unidentified man is rushed away in an ambulance. A detective (Elias Koteas) visits his bedside, suspecting he's responsible for a string of gruesome murders. He leaves the room for a moment, only to return and find the man has thrown himself out the window and to his death. The focus then moves back two weeks (a trick Reeves presumably picked up from pal J.J. Abrams) to see Abby (Chloe Moretz) and the man we assume to be her father (Richard Jenkins) moving into an apartment next to shy schoolboy Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee).
While Owen battles bullies, dark forces appear to be at work next door. Jenkins's character leaves late at night to commit murder and drain his victims' blood to feed Abby. Owen, meanwhile, bonds with his new neighbor in the courtyard as they share a Rubik's Cube and talk about his problems at school. A tentative romance blossoms, although Abby keeps her past tightly guarded. "We can't be friends," she warns when they first meet. A botched murder sends Abby's guardian to hospital (which re-visits the opening scenes) and she's left to hunt blood for herself in order to survive.
Let Me In brilliantly translates the dark, melancholic mood of the 2008 original. It's a haunting and beautifully acted picture - Moretz and Smit-McPhee carry the androgynous looks of their Swedish counterparts Lina Leandersson and Kare Hedebrant, and their performances are every bit as subtle and piercing as those that preceded them. With a Hollywood budget, Reeves intensifies the chilling atmosphere but manages to keep the doomed Romeo & Juliet love story at the forefront. The film drives along the same path as before, albeit re-ordering a few scenes, removing some (the naked shot of the vampire isn't present, although that aspect of her character remains) and adding cinematic flourishes (a single take shot of a car accident is breathtaking). The swimming pool finale is present, still as brutal and cathartic as before.
Despite shifting out of the art-house world and into the mainstream, Reeves has admirably kept Let Me In uncompromised. It never feels like it's pandering to reach a bigger audience and possesses all the magical elements that beguiled viewers first time around. Horror film, serial killer drama, revenge fantasy, or coming-of-age romance, Let Me In succeeds whichever way you want to look at it.