Practically every critic who liked the Swedish gem Let the Right One In, the story of a 12-year-old vampire girl who found friendship with a living human boy, was up in arms about an American remake.
I was one of those hordes, and I’m now on the other side. Let Me In not only works terrifically as an Americanized version of the original, it also serves as a way to get audience members who don’t do subtitles to see a great story.
Switching from Stockholm to Los Alamos, New Mexico, the film opens with confusion concerning the police, a young boy and some nasty events in a hospital room. Then the words “two weeks earlier” flash up.
We meet Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee, from The Road), a sad young boy who lives in a dreary apartment complex with his mom (Cara Buono) and spends most of his time alone, in the cold courtyard. He’s fearful of the school bullies who have it in for him.
One night, he meets barefooted Abby (Chloe Moretz, from Kick-Ass) in the courtyard. She’s the young girl who just moved to the complex with her dad (Richard Jenkins) and seems to be as remote and short of social graces as Owen.
It turns out that each of these kids really needs a friend. It also turns out that one of them is not a kid.
“I’ve been 12 for a long time,” hints Abby to Owen. By that time it’s been established that Abby is a hunter, a creature who attacks humans. Yup, the popularity of vampire movies continues. But this is no Twilight-affair. This is a creepy movie, one that isn’t afraid to bare its (vampire) fangs, nor to let the blood flow.
Abby must play by vampire rules: She can’t go out in the daylight, must be invited into someone’s home (there’s that title) and needs blood to survive. That last part is portrayed with extreme viciousness on a couple of occasions, and made scarier and more ghastly by speeding up the action when she attacks.But the movie is much more about friendship. She doesn’t even realize that she needs a friend. Nor does Owen realize there’s more to school than being beaten up by some bad guys. As the horror plot moves forward, eventually involving Abby’s father and her many victims, the focus subtly turns to the slowly evolving relationship between the two kids. Owen helps her just by being there. Once they get to talking about his school problems, she offers some advice: “Hit back. Hit them really hard. If that doesn’t work, I’ll help you.”
It would be a good thing to have her on your side, a bad one to make her angry. But she’s also a difficult character to figure out. She coldly orders her father around. Yet she shyly approaches Owen and asks, “Would you still like me even if I wasn’t a girl?” When hunger overcomes her, she’s reduced to an animal state, thinking only of survival.
Fans of the original film will be happy to know that many of its iconic scenes are in place here. But it also reaches out to new places in the hands of writer-director Matt Reeves, who made more than a few eyes pop in his debut film Cloverfield.
Yes, there’s quite a bit of carnage in this film, but if put on scales, there would probably be an equal balance of warmth. It’s not a movie for the squeamish, but it is a movie for horror fans who like a bit of class.