Director: Matt Reeves
Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas
Eat some now. Save some for later.
Life is hard when you’re a loner in Los Alamos, Mexico. Bullied at school with only sweet wrappers for company, you reach out into the darkness for any kind of connection. Sometimes the darkness reaches back. And sometimes, a bloke comes along and remakes your story for an American audience.
Owen (Smit-McPhee) is 12 years old. So is Abby (Moretz), his new neighbour. She’s been 12 for a long time. She doesn’t get cold. She doesn’t appear in the daytime. And she has an older man (Jenkins) who goes out at night and butchers teens for blood. When the two young souls meet on an icy climbing frame in Owen’s apartment complex, their relationship rapidly evolves.
Letting each other into their isolated worlds, it’s an unsettling bond to witness up close. And Matt Reeves makes sure we do: his camera often stays at Owen’s eye level, to the point where we feel as detached from his faceless mum as he does. It's a neat touch, teasing out the emotions from his naturally awkward cast.
Like the original Swedish tale of frozen innocence, things are kept tense and tender. But subtlety has jumped right out the hospital window. Mostly thanks to Michael Giacchino's intrusive score. Still, the Cloverfield director matches up well against Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In. Let Me In never reaches the delicate heights of the fragile love story, but makes up for missing grace with gore, and lots of explicit blood spillage.
Stalking through the snowy streets, Richard Jenkins’ serial killer has a rhythm to his movements, an ominous sense of momentum. At times, it’s almost more of a crime thriller than a horror; it’s telling that Reeves emphasises the role of Elias Koteas’ bewildered policeman. Removing supporting characters (and the infamous feline encounter), Reeves sticks to the story’s overall structure, but recasts the tale as a more conventional conflict between good and evil. Does it take away some of your sympathy for the young ‘uns? Perhaps. Does it work? Absolutely.
It’s all thanks to the child actors, who nail their formative feelings without fudging the fear. The only major misstep is a questionable use of CGI; Abby’s transformation is now more terrifying, but less tragic. Going all Linda Blair with her face and vocals, it’s a strong contrast to Chloe Moretz’s angelic appearance, but one that almost overshadows it. Fortunately, Smit-McPhee has no such qualms, carrying a pang of naivety that makes him a believably vulnerable target for Abby's clutches.
Together, the pair’s passion makes this more than just an American retread of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel. With or without the subtleties, this story should be seen by those scared of subtitles. Justifiably bringing the story to a new audience, Let Me In is something more personal than a mere remake; it’s Reeves' own meditation on innocence and survival.
Not as haunting but still horrific, Let Me In’s remade romance keeps that chilling heart beating. Unsubtle. Sinister. Sweet.