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Let Me In

USA 2010
Directed by
Matt Reeves
115 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
4 stars

Let Me In

Synopsis: Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a bullied 12 year-old living with his mother in an apartment complex in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Owen likes to watch the neighbours through a telescope while fantasising about killing the bullies who torment him. Then Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz) moves in next door with her father (Richard Jenkins). She tells him they can’t be friends. And then he finds out why. Abby is a vampire.

Probably the most unnecessary remake in the history of cinema, Let Me In is the American translation of the best vampire film of recent memory, Let The Right One In. But against all odds, director Matt Reeves has delivered a film that’s almost as great as the original, and sufficiently different in tone to justify its own existence.

Where the original was an eerie story of pre-teen friendship and the first fumblings of love, Let Me In is a dark and violent meditation on the cyclical nature of evil. There is an anxiety-inducing tension to this film that wasn’t as prominent in the original, just as the violence is more explicit and the motives of the characters are more directly addressed. As a result, Let Me In loses in beauty and elegant creepiness, but makes up for it in direct emotional force. Owen lives in constant fear and you feel his fear.

The central element of this story is the relationship between Owen and Abby and it’s both sweet and disturbing as Owen comes to understand what Abby is, and accepts it. Oddly, the only thing he isn’t afraid of is the person who murders people. But the counterpointing of Abby’s almost “natural” evil (she’s just higher up on the food chain) with the violence of the bullies tormenting Owen is interesting. He doesn’t fear Abby, who could quite easily kill him, although he’s terrified of some school bullies (portrayed with a particularly visceral bent). The sheer nastiness and unreasoning hatred of the bullies towards Owen is discomfiting, while Abby’s behaviour is far worse, yet somehow more sympathetic. It’s never properly articulated, but the comparison between cruelty and survival sits there quietly and it definitely caught my attention. But all the good ideas in the world wouldn’t work without the stunning central performances of Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace Moretz. Owen is a brilliantly realised character, tortured and impotent, shy and full of pent up aggression. It’s all very believable, and the sadness of his existence is genuinely depressing. But then Abby comes along, and with his odd new friend Owen finds himself more and more confident. And she grows more and more human, at least with him. Her scenes with her “father” are much different  and outline the potentially dark future awaiting Owen.

Not everything is perfect. The CG-enhanced scenes of Abby’s vampiric attacks aren’t particularly convincing, the animation is a little off, the movement unnatural, which is intentional but distracting. And the final scene undercuts the ambiguity that makes the relationship between Owen and Abby so intriguing.

How much you like Let Me In will depend, in the end, on whether you’ve seen the original or not. If you haven’t, this will be one of the most stellar films of the year. And it is, without question. But it lives in the shadow of an even better film. It’s a great film, just not as great. That could sound like a warning, but it’s not. Fortunately.




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