Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Opens October 1st, 2010
Run Time: 1 hour 55 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Kodi Smit McPhee, Chloe Grace Moretz, Richard Jenkins
Directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, 28 Weeks Later)
SOME SPOILERS TO FOLLOW
"Let Me In" is an intelligent, deliberately paced, and effective movie strictly for adults, although most of the on-screen time is spent with child actors. It seems that nowadays kids are having more and more names, as both of the stars of this film have 3 each (see above). But that aside, "Let Me In" is a different kind of vampire story, mixing in flavors of odd-ball acceptance tales where a kid just doesn't fit in. It focuses on these characters and really hits home in it's themes of alienation. For the genre (horror), it isn't too thrilling as far as making you jump and squirm, but there are definitely gruesome sequences worthy of similar films.
The Plot. This movie is a re-make of the Swedish film "Let the Right One In", which was itself based on a book by John Ajvide Lindqvist. This film's main character is 12-year old Owen (McPhee), a deeply disturbed young boy, who's parents are going through a divorce. He is viciously bullied at school, and appears to have no friends. He fantasizes about getting back at the bullies, even acting it out with a switchblade, pretending to stab them repeatedly. We see him sit alone at a snow-covered playground, at night. He peers through a telescope at night as well, peeking into his neighbors windows. He is alone, misunderstood, and tragically isolated.
When a neighbor moves in with what seems to be his young daughter Abby (Moretz), they form a unique bond. A string of murders begin happening around town, and soon Owen realizes that Abby is something different...in fact, she's a vampire, who needs human blood to survive. Her "guardian" father (Jenkins) is in a morally impossible place, where he must kill for her, to feed her and keep her alive.
It doesn't suck. Using all of the usual vampire convections, "Let Me In" is more focused on the characters of Abby and Owen, and this benefits the movie greatly. Vampires still need human blood to survive, they'll cook in sunlight, and if they bite you and you live, you will turn into a vampire as well. But much like Abby, who only kills when needed, so does the movie. There are no gratuitous killings thrown in simply for shock value, each "horror" scene is a necessity, and nobody involved likes what their doing.
Revenge of the Nerds. This movie feels familiar because it is the classic "nerd vs. bully" story. And to use the word "bully" in this film is way too polite. The kids that terrorize Owen are downright evil, out to hurt, humiliate, and even kill Owen. This over-the-top craziness is one of the film's weaknesses, as it goes past the point of unbelievable and into ludicrous speed. There's no motivations for these kids to be this hateful, and their aggression just escalates more and more throughout the film.
I'm a Vampire, Charlie Brown. But the movie works so well as the friendship and bond between Abby and Owen grows. Both child actors give very good performances, especially Moretz who I believe will have a bright future ahead of her in Hollywood. Interestingly, the whole movie seems to exist on the child's level, even to the point where we never are shown Owen's mother's face, even though she's in multiple scenes. It's kind of the same trick used in the Charlie Brown cartoons...if Lucy were to attack Linus and suck his blood. But either way, these stylistic moments by director Matt Reeves make the movie all the more interesting.
Final Thoughts. In the end, "Let Me In" is an interesting movie, and more gross-out than scary. In fact, the movie is at it's best in-between the gory scenes, save for 2 incredible sequences that I think are unique and worth the trip to the theatre alone...the first involves a car crash, completely shown from the view inside the car. Another is a sequence where Owen is underwater, as a massive vampire-slaying session is happening above water out of our sight...I don't normally comment on a film's sound, but the lack of sound in this sequence makes it very effective.
Despite the unbelievably vile bullies, some bad CGI here and there, and a few mis-steps along the way, "Let Me In" breathes much needed fresh air into the lungs of the vampire-genre, a genre that is quite hard to re-imagine. With vampires being all the rage lately, it is nice to see a film approach them in a seemingly new way. "Let Me In" is the most human of all vampire movies I've seen recently, and that's what makes it a good film
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