Two years ago, two movies were released that treaded on similar ground. Twilight was one of them. That movie, as dopey as it was, explored a relationship between a human and a vampire and it was a smash hit. It became a cultural phenomenon and, unfortunately, will soon be heading into the fourth movie in the franchise. The other film, also about a human/vampire relationship, was a small Swedish picture called Let the Right One In. It flew under the radar and was criminally overlooked in the wake of all the Twilight hysteria. Now that fantastic little picture has been remade into a fantastic big one. Now getting the recognition it deserves in American form (due to the public’s idiotic lack of interest in reading subtitles), the newly titled Let Me In never fails to amaze.
The story is set in the cold months of 1983 in New Mexico. The terrific Kodi Smit-McPhee, who dazzled in one of last year’s best pictures, The Road, plays Owen, a kid who spends most of his days by himself. He has no friends and is bullied in school by Kenny, played by Dylan Minnette, who taunts him daily, calling him a “little girl” and asking if he’s scared. The truth is Owen is scared, though he fantasizes about taking his revenge on Kenny, stabbing at the air and pretending his body is taking the sharp end of his knife. It isn’t until his new neighbor arrives and she insists he stand up for himself that he starts to take control. The problem, however, is that the new girl, Abby, played by the wonderful Chloe Moretz, is a vampire and needs blood to survive. Although she tells him they can’t be friends, a friendship blossoms anyway as he learns about her secret.
In another example of misleading advertising (which seems to be happening a lot these days), Let Me In is not the experience most moviegoers will be expecting. This is not a horror movie, despite the horror elements. It’s a slow building, tender love story about two people, one a lonely child who takes comfort in finally having a friend and the other an ageless vampire who, similarly, has remained friendless throughout her existence. They need each other and, like any relationship, they love each other unconditionally, despite their differences.
While Let Me In can’t really be described as anything that works on a realistic, human level, it deftly explores its characters and that is what makes it so special. It doesn’t relate to its audience, but it makes us care about the characters that exist within the story. Moretz in particular does a wonderful job of keeping us ingrained with what we’re seeing. At one point in the movie, Owen asks Abby to be his girlfriend, but, as bad as she’d like to, she knows she can’t. She tells him she’s not a girl. “I’m nothing,” she says. She wants to be normal, but that isn’t possible and it will keep her from ever forging a lasting bond with anybody.
In its own dark, macabre way, Let Me In is quite beautiful. Director Matt Reeves, the man behind Cloverfield, does a masterful job creating this movie. The grim cinematography and the eerily effective lighting help establish a moody, atmospheric and stylish tale. His attention to detail and unique camera trickery, as evidenced by an astonishing one take, in-the-car crash, is a sight to behold.
If there is one criticism I can levy towards Let Me In, it’s that it doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself from Let the Right One In. It starts the same, it ends the same and the middle only has minor differences. If you aren’t going to put your own unique stamp on the story, why bother? Luckily, the redundancy to its source material is at least somewhat offset by Michael Giacchino’s brilliant score that pounds loudly to build fear and tension, but also slows down when necessary to help portray the moving, passionate friendship blossoming onscreen.
Let Me In will undoubtedly gain more exposure simply due to the fact that the characters speak English, but it’s hard to say if it is better than Let the Right One In. Picking the superior one is like picking an orange. One may be a bit juicier than the other, but they’re both quite tasty.
Let Me In receives 4.5/5