Jeremy's Fantastic Fest Review: Let Me In - A Beautiful Tribute
by Jeremy Kirk
September 26, 2010
Let Me In, the Matt Reeves-written/directed retelling of John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel originally known as Let the Right One In, is beautiful, gripping, and terrifying. It is a powerful story of one boy's isolation from the world and the creature that comes into his life to accept him. From the way Reeves adapts the story to the way it's executed, there is so much to appreciate in this film, yet there is a difficult feeling to shake.
Let Me In is not only another retelling of Lindqvist's novel, it is a remake of the 2008 Swedish film, which was adapted to the screen by Lindqvist himself and directed by Tomas Alfredson. While Let Me In cannot be considered a shot-for-shot remake to Let the Right One In, considered by many to be the best vampire film in the history of the medium, it certainly comes off as a scene-for-scene remake. While some may be able to shake that feeling, that we've been down this snowy road before, there is no denying the power and accuracy Reeves displays here.
Set in 1983 the film centers on 12-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a quiet boy who lives with his mother in Los Alamos apartment complex. His devoutly Christian mother neglects him. The boys at school taunt him, ever increasingly hatefully and hurtfully. Alone in his room at night, he watches the other people in his complex through a telescope. That is when he first sees Abby (Chloe Moretz), a young (or young-appearing, anyway) girl who moves into the apartment next to Owen and his mother. The boy instantly becomes infatuated with the girl, listening in through paper-thin wall of his bedroom on the conversations Abby has with the elderly gentleman she lives with.
If you have seen Let the Right One In or know Lindqvist's story, you know the secret Abby holds. What Reeves does well here is in never hiding her dark side. Abby is a vampire, forever trapped in the body of a 12-year-old girl and who must feed on human blood for survival. The man she lives with, not her father, travels out at night and kills for the blood Abby needs. As Owen and Abby investigate their own connection with one another, the outside world begins closing in on both of them.
Aided by cinematography from Greig Fraser, the look Reeves builds into Let Me In is undeniably dark, confident, and sets the pristine tone of foreboding the story requires. Never, not even in the direction Tomas Alfredson brought to the original film, has this sense of danger been so beautiful to watch. Even in the daylight, the world Owen inhabits seems closed in by some dome, and the isolation instilled in both story and execution weighs on you like a ton of bricks.
The weight found in the connections here is flawless, as well, with Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz taking over the roles of Owen and Abby with absolute certainty. When the idea of a Let the Right One In remake came about, one element many were worried about was in the casting, but there were very few who believed Reeves would be able to find two children whose performance would actually surpass those found in the original. That is absolutely done here. Smit-McPhee plays secluded and hurt from the world around him so well, you so desperately want to give to him the caring embrace Abby gives to Owen in the film. Moretz is flawless, almost physically pulling back from the camera for fear of letting her secret be known.
But Reeves isn't satisfied with letting Let Me In be a one-connection film. Everyone involved here gives an outstanding performance, particularly Richard Jenkins as Abby's caregiver. The Father figure here is a broken man, one who has seen and experienced so much more than can be described, and Jenkins lets that breaking drill through in his expressions. You know what he and Abby are doing is wrong, necessity for Abby's life or not, and their victims are not always the "bad people" of the world. Yet you see the way Abby and The Father interact. You hear it in the words between Moretz and Jenkins when he is imploring her not to reveal herself to the boy. It's heartbreaking long before the weight of the world tumbles their house of cards down around them.
Moving these characters and the incredible embodiment the actors provide through this world is Reeves' stellar direction. There are moments and shots of absolute quiet in Let Me In that say so much more than anything that can be presented audibly. Hidden within the bricks of this astonishing castle of assured film making are individual shots that take your breath away. Obviously, the less said about these shots the better, but stringing these unbelievably awe-inspiring shots together into spectacular sequences of suspense is something Let Me In does perfectly.
There are elements of Let Me In that don't work flawlessly. Michael Giacchino, nearly always solid in his music-making, provides a rather literal score here. It thumps in all the right moments for a horror film, but there is very little nuance. The computer effects that aid in Abby's more vampirific moments is sub-par, as well, a negative aspect Let Me In shares with the original film, unfortunately. Elias Koteas' detective character is intriguing, and the actor does well in it, but there is very little payoff. It should be noted his character is new to Let Me In. It was not a character found in the 2008 original, and its presence here feels almost shoe-horned, as if we need an outside force to personify the danger that awaits Owen and Abby.
There is also the issue of identity, that reason for being that Let Me In unfortunately does not provide. Beat-for-beat, Let Me In feels much like a film made by someone who wanted to remake Let the Right One In for English-speaking audiences. While that statement may sound strange to some, while it might seem obvious that's what Reeves was doing here, that didn't have to be the case.
The same sense of beauty, loneliness, and the cold world that awaits all creatures, good and evil, could have been provided to something that wasn't so much a literal translation. It is something that is all too evident, even if the emotion behind Let Me In is able to shine past it. Abby may be a danger creature in the world she inhabits, but she is also one who seeks an identity, who wants to be seen as so much more than a cold copy of something more human. Let Me In does the same, and it, too, copy or not, is a thing of beauty.
Jeremy's Fantastic Fest Rating: 8 out of 10