Let Her In, Again

Swedish vampires move to New Mexico It’d be safe to assume that fans of Swedish director Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In have, at best, mixed emotions regarding the idea of a big, Halloween-season American remake. Good news: writer/director Matt Reeves also seems to be a fan, and his Let Me In is one of the best Hollywood remakes you’re likely to see. Between his mother (Cara Buono), who is drinking her way through a divorce, and the regular beatings he faces at school, 12-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) lives a brutal existence. As he begins to fantasize about taking drastic measures with a cheap pocket knife, a new neighbor moves in. Her name is Abby (Chloe Moretz). She lives with a man who is presumably her father (Richard Jenkins), and she can only be found outside at night. Quickly, and despite her warnings, Owen befriends her and begins to experience a different kind of cruelty: frustrated young love. It’s no spoiler to reveal that the apparently adolescent Abby is actually an ageless vampire, although she doesn’t define it that way, and her faux-father does the dirty work of scouring the town for fresh blood. The bodies he leaves behind bring a shaken but determined police investigator (Elias Koteas) on the scene, but we spend most of our time watching the progression of Owen and Abby’s strange friendship. If Jenkins’ and Koteas’ presence aren’t reason enough to see this movie, I don’t know what is. Two of America’s greatest character actors are at the top of their game here, with relatively small, mostly thankless roles that are impossible to forget. But it’s our tragic lovers, Smit-McPhee and Moretz, who make it all work, and they are as good as you could hope for. They’re both fragile, frightening and vulnerable — in very different ways. Instead of harvesting only the exclamation points, as we’ve come to expect remakes to do, Reeves has created what really feels like a loving adaptation. He takes great care to capture the same eerie atmosphere and let the relationship between the two kids remain the essential point. So Let Me In is both very good and very similar to the original … then what’s the point? Besides being a convenient solution for the subtitle-averse (which isn’t really a good thing), it’s worth it to see how Reeves has managed to take this Nordic story and make it feel quintessentially American. Set in suburban 1983, with a perfectly utilized pop soundtrack, it becomes a sort of twisted, poetic John Hughes movie. The setting also inevitably draws us to the last golden age of American horror, when Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers were problems counted alongside bullies and acne to their high-school victims. With that in mind, Let Me In becomes less of a remake and more of an American counterpart to Let the Right One In. And although that might seem useless, the result is just as magnetic and heartbreaking. Turns out, Reeves has made a movie good enough to survive any fan’s comparison test. GRADE: B+

posted at 12:07 pm
on Wednesday, October 06th, 2010

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