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FILM: Let Me In

Written by Marcus Campbell on October 21, 2010

Let Me In
Directed By Matt Reeves
Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas

For those who have seen Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish vampire thriller Let The Right One In (adapted from John Ajvide Lindqvist’s 2004 book of the same name), the inevitable Hollywood remake Let Me In will seem scarier than sitting through another two hour session of watching Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart destroy the vampire myth. John Ajvide Lindqvist’s original story of tender teenage romance with a horrifying vampire twist burned a whole right through the pervasive blanket of Twilight hysteria and showed us that there was still a future for horror film’s beloved vamps. Whether you have seen the remarkable original or you’re new to the story, both camps will be pleasantly surprised.

Matt Reeves (of Cloverfield fame) sticks so closely to Tomas Alfredson’s approach he could be guilty of many moments of scene-for-scene replication, but this only keeps the film from drifting away to something that could ruin the original’s tender but tense nuance. The knockout screen-stealer Chloë Moretz (Kiss Ass) plays Abby, a mysterious vampire who has been 12 for a lot longer than she is ready to let on. After moving to a set of flats somewhere in New Mexico with her guardian (Richard Jenkins) she meets introverted Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee – The Road), an outcast who fanaticises about serial killers possibly because he is bullied by kids at his school.

As the pair slowly develops a bond, we are treated to a pair of the best young acting talents in the business. Both Moretz and Smit-McPhee are softly but surely convincing in their complex roles as an ancient pre-teen vampire and an insecure, neglected kid. The horrors of a young vampire existence are usefully juxtaposed by the horror of being denied a normal adolescence, with Owen’s parents in the midst of a messy divorce and Abby having to relive her childhood over and over without even being able to stomach candy or play in the park in daylight. The pair’s fascinating relationship gives the story a warm centre amongst the chilling horror of following Abby’s guardian out into the woods and byways where he stalks local college students to perform cold murders to collect blood for young Abby.

The jump from the original Stockholm setting to New Mexico might seem a stretch but Let Me In sets a few atmospheric goals for itself and actually pulls them off. It’s 1980’s southwest America, where televangelists are shouting about sin to their frenzied audience and Reagan is reciting lines about the impending evil of the red menace with just as much fervour. A tip to listen out for – try to recognise the voice on the phone when Owen is asking his father if he thinks there is “such a thing as evil?” If you can catch it, it will add a whole new twist to an already twisted story.

Unfortunately some of the best and strangest moments of atmosphere-building in the Swedish adaptation were lost to the Hollywood version, such as the scene where a ‘crazy cat lady’ gets mauled by her colony when she is bitten by Eli (Abby), along with a disturbing scene where Eli puts her asexuality on display. Both can now be treasured by fans of the original but weren’t entirely missed in Let Me In.  What replaces these powerful special effect moments are unnecessary embellishments with impressive CGI, where Abby’s eyes are given a demonic quality and her attacks are made more animalistic and supernatural – something the first instalment didn’t really need to be effective.

Ultimately what carries this film is its healthy reliance on its outstanding cast. Moretz and Smit-McPhee are a pleasure to watch during this unique story of young love in a time of serial murder. You won’t see one redundant theme of ‘forbidden sex’ or some infuriating love triangle to keep the focus away from the more classic metaphors that can come from having a character that lives forever and is sustained by the death of others. Go and see this powerfully disturbing film.

You will love this if: You like vampires to be vampires.

You will hate this if: You are Swedish and you are sick of having your nation’s literature adapted to screen, highly praised and then copied by Hollywood so that it is more accessible to the English-speaking world.

Let Me In is showing now in wide release

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