Review of Let Me In

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A remake of the Swedish film Let the Right One In, this 2010 version is still set in the 1980's, although the location has changed from Stockholm to Los Alamos, New Mexico. There a 12-year-old boy named Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) lives in an apartment building. A girl named Abby (Chloe Moretz) moves into a unit with a man (Richard Jenkins) that Owen takes to be her father. Soon afterwards, a series of bizarre murders take place, prompting an investigation by a policeman (Elias Koteas).
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Movie Review: "Let Me In"

-- Rating: R (strong bloody horror violence, language, brief sexual situation)
Length: 116 minutes
Release Date: October 1, 2010
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Genre: Drama/Horror/Mystery

American remakes of European films can be a real hit-or-miss prospect. Some fail miserably, while others are not only worthy of the original, but sometimes surpass it. "Let Me In" falls into the latter category, matching the superb Swedish original, "Let the Right One In" blow for blow.

The action in the original happened in Sweden; this American adaptation is set in Los Alamos, New Mexico, instead. The year is 1983, when President Reagan was preaching the ills of the Soviet Union. The snow is falling on the ground, which gives the film an eerie similarity to the original, set in a blustery Stockholm.

The film tells the story of Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a 12-year-old boy who is very much a lost soul. He is very sensitive, which the bullies at school see as an indicator of weakness. He is an easy target for the boys, who bully him as they hurl homophobic slurs his way. Owen takes the abuse without fighting back, presumably because he doesn't know how. His mother (Cara Buono) is around, but might as well not be. She is completely emotionally absent from Owen's life. In fact, to prove how little she means in his life, director Matt Reeves ("Cloverfield") doesn't show any distinct features of the mother's face, opting instead for shadows and careful camera angles.

Owen daydreams about getting revenge on his attackers while he eats Now and Later candies. Then one day, his life is changed irrevocably by the arrival of Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz) and her "father" (Richard Jenkins). Abby is a wan girl with dirty blonde hair and pale skin who traipses around barefoot in the snow, claiming that the cold doesn't bother her very much.

The audience at this point already knows that Abby is a vampire, even though poor Owen still has no clue. He is so isolated and desperate for human contact that he doesn't realize that the person he has the most contact isn't actually a human at all. He doesn't seem to pick up on her clues, such her answer "12, more or less" when he asks her how old she is.

Owen also doesn't seem to see the somewhat questionable relationship that Abby has with her father, who isn't actually her father at all. He is in fact a human guardian who has sworn to protect Abby from daylight, where she would burst into flames. He also slaughters humans for her so that she can keep her bloodlust in check.

Every human that the father drains for Abby means another body that is left somewhere. Soon, the body count begins to rise, and a policeman (Elias Koteas) begins investigating. The father has been assisting Abby long enough to know better than to hide bodies anywhere near their apartment complex. Unfortunately, Abby, despite her years and knowledge, chooses a victim from their building, which brings the suspicious policeman right to their front door.

Meanwhile, Owen asks Abby, who he has been spending an increasing amount of time with, to "go steady" with him. She refuses, saying they can't even be friends. This turns out to be an empty promise, as the two are fast becoming friends. There is no sexual component to their relationship, at least none that is show on screen. However, when the two embrace warmly, the growing affection between the two is evident.

The parts of Abby and Owen could easily have gone south with the wrong actors. Thankfully, director Reeve found some really great child actors to take the plum roles. Moretz in particular is spectacular as Abby, who lives her life wondering from one day to the next if someone will find out her secret. Vampires have been somewhat romanticized in recent pop culture history, but "Let Me In" does no such thing. Instead, it lays bare the life of desperation that vampires must endure in order to satisfy their need for human blood. They could get caught at anytime, which makes their daily thirst a dangerous one.

The biggest difference between this film and the original is that Reeves dabbles a little bit in CGI and action sequences. He does this successfully, since the additions add to the overall story. The story didn't really need enhancement, as the tragic choices that Owen and Abby must make provide plenty of drama on their own. However, the additions are a nice, appropriate surprise that should silence any critics who loved the original film.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars