Let Me In
With all the infatuation with vampires and werewolves, audiences seem to have forgotten that these creatures are supposed to be frightening, not romantic leads. With young girls caught between loving a vampire or werewolves, they are choosing between necrophilia and bestiality. A couple of years ago I came across a little foreign film in my pile of discs to review; ‘Let the Right One In.' It is a little Swedish independent film that, simply put, blew me away. It was by far the best vampire film that I have seen in several decades. I was not alone in this assessment as the movie quickly gained international acclaim. With such amazing momentum building behind this movie, I was not surprised when an American remake was announced. Usually, I find myself with a general disdain for such endeavors. The translation from a brilliant film in its native language and culture rarely survive the migration to a movie in The States intact. This is why the latest cinematic translation is such a marvel. It not only succeeds remarkably well as an American remake but it preserves most of the inventiveness and emotional impact of the Swedish original. This film does not return vampires to the hideous Max Schreck incarnation thing the tween market, but it is a welcome relief from the overly mushy, angst ridden vampire flicks dominating the tween market of late. This dilution of horror flicks might just halt if more film makers dare to strike out in new directions like this one. ‘Let Me In’ is a brilliantly constructed mélange of several notable genre aspects of the coming of age stories ranging from the blush of puppy love to the bruise of bullying form the basis of a story that you are not likely to soon forget. Those completely indoctrinated by the current ‘Team Edward’ versus ‘Team Jacob’ debacle may find this film strange but they should be well advised to broaden their horizons and give this movie a chance. It isn’t often you get the opportunity to watch as a genre is entirely redefined.
The original story goes back to the novel ‘Låt den rätte comma in’ authored by John Ajvide Lindquist who also provided the original screenplay. The man responsible for retaining the integrity of the story as it translated to this form was Matt Reeves. In his capacity as a writer, he wrote teleplays for the Television series, Felicity’ which helped develop a working relationship with the series creator, J.J. Abrams. This collaboration bore exceptional fruit with his first directorial work on a feature length film, ‘Clover field.' In a fashion similar to what he achieved here that movie helped redefined the creature feature type of horror movie. Reeves is rapidly becoming known as the man who is saving the horror genre from the terrible state it has fallen in to producing slash and dash flick and the romance above fare. A good part of his style apparently comes from his association with Abrams, one of the most creative visual artists on the entertainment scene today. Reeves has pulled off the exceptionally rare and unusual accomplishment of bringing a foreign film to an American audience without sacrificing the innovative look, feel and emotional drive that defined the Swedish film. Very few concessions were made in this translation, and the changes that implemented were entirely consistent and faithful to the novel that started it all.
Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a twelve-year-old boy who is deeply depressed. At home, his parents engaged in a bitter divorce that his mother (Cara Buono) barely tries to cover. At school Owen, a very slightly built boy is constantly targeted by bullies. In the privacy of his room, he wields a knife killing imaginary adversaries. He also dons a creepy translucent mask as he peers through his telescope at the people in the adjacent building. One evening he notices new tenants moving in, Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz) and a middle aged man (Richard Jenkins) the boy assumes to be her father. When they met, Owen reaches out to a friend but is initially rebuked by Abby. Despite this reaction, the two begin to grow closer out of a mutually shared understanding of loneliness. From the perspective of the audience, Abby’s life is not at all healthy. ‘Father’ goes out at night to cover up her skills or obtain fresh sources of blood for her vampire cravings. Abby takes on the role of Owens’s protector after he is brutally scared with a car antenna by the de facto leader of the local bully contingent, Kenny (Dylan Minnette). Knowing that Abby has confidence in him Owen can ward off an attack by Kenny while on a school field trip injuring him. This results in a chaste kiss on his cheek from Abby; an act of kindness Owen is not accustomed to receiving.
Casting a film like this had to be unusually severe. After all, there is an emotional power required by these young actors that call for an acting acumen beyond that of typical child performers. Fortunately, the pair of players in those pivotal roles exceeded all expectations. Kodi Smit-McPhee is a brooding young man who possesses a seething just below the surface. Owen befriending a blood thirsty monster is easy to comprehend within the context of the nightmare that is his life. There is an instant bond formed with the audience as we empathize with his lamentable plight. In a gender role reversal, his protector is a little girl played to perfection by Chloë Grace Moretz. Most will remember her as the foul mouth, ultra deadly ‘Hit Girl’ in ‘Kick-Ass.' Moretz already manifest an effect that is both a lonely little girl and a centuries old killer. He is well on her way to a career that will certainly garner many accolades and golden statues. Pulling it all together is the masterful direction of Reeves. He has been substantially and beneficially by J.J. Abrams and his genius flair for visually impressive films. Reeves pulls the setting into the cast making the environment into an integral part of telling the story. Painting with a pallet of muted blues and grays the loneliness experienced by Owen and Abby becomes palpable, underlining the factor that binds to two together. Even though Abby is hundreds of years old and a deadly predator emotionally a preteen girl struggling to discover her place in a world she cannot understand. Forget Team Edward and try a vampire film that is refreshingly different and gripping in its story.
Posted 01/23/11 08/2/30/2017