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Review: Let Me In (2010)

Let Me In

Rating

Director
Matt Reeves
Screenplay
Matt Reeves (Screenplay & Novel: John Ajvide Lindqvist)
Length
116 min.
Starring
Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Grace Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Cara Buono, Elias Koteas, Sasha Barrese, Dylan Kenin, Chris Browning, Ritchie Coster, Dylan Minnette, Jimmy Jax Pinchak, Nicolai Dorian
MPAA Rating
R for strong bloody horror violence, language and a brief sexual situation

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Review
The Swedish novel Låt den rätte komma in was the basis for the critically acclaimed Swedish horror film Let the Right One In and both are inspirations for the American adaptation called more simplistically Let Me In.

The story revolves around a bullied young high school kid, Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who meets a mysterious young girl in the snow-covered playground of his apartment complex. Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz) has just arrived in town and moved in next door to Owen. They develop a strong relationship while chatting in the courtyard, Owen revealing the problems he's going through at school while she remains cagey about her life and her background. When she finally reveals herself as a vampire, Owen must come to grips with the revelation and decide if he will continue his friendship with her or go back to his miserable life.

Matt Reeves, who directed the horror let down Cloverfield, helms this unneeded adaptation, continuing the trend of American producers hoping to strike gold with a foreign-to-American adaptation. They may never again find another The Ring, but that doesn't seem to stop them from trying. This time they are not shy about their desires and are attempting to take the celebrated Swedish film and update it for U.S. audiences, removing the key plot development that made the original so much more evocative. Instead, you have a more mainstream and whitewashed horror flick that lacks the suspense possessed by the original.

The movie does have a few positive elements. The photography is rich and the performances are strong. Smit-McPhee and Moretz both do terrific jobs conveying solitude, loneliness and longing. And while Smit-McPhee is the better of his Swedish counterpart, Kåre Hedebrant, who seemed to be more brooding; comparing Moretz and Lina Leandersson (who played Eli in the original) is a bit more difficult. While I have Moretz's good performance in Kick-Ass as a reference to the quality of actress, I don't have an equal comparison for Leandersson, but for the charcater in question, I have to give Leandersson the edge simply because I connected more with her character in Let the Right One In and was more quickly able to get the loneliness in her character and developed a more compassionate connection to her plight. But Moretz is still a strong second and with Smit-McPhee show that at least the film did well with casting. Richard Jenkins, who plays Abby's "father", doesn't connect with the audience. You don't feel much of a connection between "father" and "daughter" and his bumbling attempts to collect blood for her aren't all that impressive or exciting.

While the original film also touched briefly on some of the lives surrounding them, including some friends of one of Eli's victims, this film seems to focus in too tightly on Owen and Abby's relationship. They are the central figures of the film, but they are too exclusively centralized. One of the best things about Let the Right One In was that it also gave an idea of the society, companionship and culture necessary to explain why such an unusual relationship might develop between these two people. It isn't solely the fact that they are alone or that they face ostracizing, but their culture demands that they have friends. The people around them develop these kinds of relationships almost organically. You don't get that impression with this adaptation.

I wouldn't recommend Let Me In to anyone who was an ardent fan of the original. The discrepancies aren't too serious, but when you stick so closely to the original, your work begins to feel derivative. Many of the scenes, shots and designs are lifted directly from Let the Right One In, which makes you wonder what the purpose of such an endeavor is. And since we already know (and I've referenced it above anyway), then saying much more would be academic. So, if you don't feel like watching something with subtitles, then you're missing out on a great film. And since I wouldn't recommend you pick up this film without first appreciating the original, I won't end up recommending Let Me In at all.
Review Written
December 13, 2010

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