"Let Me In" is a moving coming-of-age tale - with vampires

"Let Me In," a heartbreaker about two 12-year-olds - a lonely boy and a vampire girl - is a reverential remake of a 2008 Swedish film.
"Let Me In," a heartbreaker about two 12-year-olds - a lonely boy and a vampire girl - is a reverential remake of a 2008 Swedish film.
Posted: October 01, 2010

A pair of 12-year-old outcasts huddle in bed late in the night - just huddle, nothing more. The boy asks the girl if she will "go steady." The girl asks what that means. Her body is turned away, so he doesn't see the blood smeared across her mouth.

She's a vampire and has just killed a man.

And he's a lonely kid who has finally found someone he can hang out with, confide in.

It's a heartbreaker of a coming-of-age tale, even if there's a string of exsanguinated corpses to be accounted for.

Let Me In is a reverential remake of the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In. It has been directed by Matt Reeves - jettisoning his shaky Cloverfield mini-cams for an exquisitely cinematic and noirish approach. And it is an extraordinarily moving - and, yes, creepy - piece.

Hewing closely to the original, which was directed by Tomas Alfredson, from a book by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let Me In stars Kodi Smit-McPhee as the boy, Owen. He was Viggo Mortensen's son in The Road, but here he seems to be nobody's: Owen lives with his mother in a bleak apartment complex in Los Alamos, N.M., but not once do we see her face - the parent is just a body, a voice, a figure that he occasionally sits with to eat a meal. At school, he's bullied and humiliated. At night, he stands by his window, pivoting his telescope up at the stars, down at the neighbors across the way.

And then Abby, lean and pale and walking barefoot through the snow, moves into the adjacent apartment with a man who appears to be her father. She keeps her distance, at first, but Owen and Abby start talking outside in the dark (of course in the dark; Abby has to hide behind covered windows during daylight). She's been 12 "for a long time," she confesses. He shows her a Rubik's Cube, tells her about the creeps taunting him at school. She says he needs to stand up and fight back.

Chloe Moretz, the precocious, profane pipsqueak heroine of Kick-Ass, plays Abby with a mournful quietude that becomes all the more disturbing when she goes into predator mode, turning (thanks to deft visual effects) into something neither human nor animal but scarily, swiftly lethal. But it is her weird, hunched-over father (Richard Jenkins) who does most of the killing, stalking young men and then draining the blood from their bodies to bring back to the girl.

It's a strange relationship, to say the least, and Owen can hear Abby's and the man's voices as they argue, rumbling through his bedroom wall.

Let Me In is deeper than the Twilight series and most of the other vampire stuff on screens these days. Reeves - who has transplanted the setting from 1980s Sweden to the Reagan-era '80s and a snowbound swath of the American Southwest - reproduces scenes, and even exact shots, from the original. But he has captured the painful, angsty tween-age soul of the original, too.

Let Me In is more than just expert mimicry. It honors the spirit of the film it so faithfully exhumes, bringing its tale of the undead very much back to life.


Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/

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