When Let The Right One In hit screens across the United States, it was lauded as an incredible example of what the vampire movie once was and could very well be. It goes without saying that, because everyone was praising it, I haven’t seen it. (I know. I’m a weird contrarian like that.) So, my first experience with Let Me In, the American remake of the Swedish film, is unencumbered by any expectations or knowledge of the original.
Set in the perpetually snowy mountain town of Los Alamos, New Mexico, in the early 1980’s, Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a candy-loving boy on the cusp of adolescence. He lives with his mother in a tiny, crappy apartment, his parents are in the process of divorcing, and he’s constantly picked on at school. His only friends are sugar and videogames, in that order, until a new girl moves into the apartment complex.
When Owen meets Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz), it’s not love at first sight, but when you consider the fact that there’s only one other child his age in the apartment complex, and it’s the barefoot new girl, it’s only natural that the two would gravitate to one another. There’s only one problem. Abby is a vampire.
The story itself is fairly predictable. You can kind of see where it’s going the whole time, but how it gets there is where the movie shines. Writer/Director Matt Reeves has done a wonderful job of crafting/adapting a film that’s both achingly sweet and disturbing in equal measure. He makes great use of pauses and silence, and the cinematography is excellent. There’s so much space. The characters of Owen and Abby seem to exist in an otherwise empty world, with only Owen’s school serving as a reminder that there are more than six people in Los Alamos.
Owen lives in a world that’s alternately empty and unfriendly, which is why he’s so drawn to Abby in the first place. It is pretty much the opposite of Twilight‘s vapid emptiness.
While Elias Koteas does well in his limited role as The Policeman, the people that carry this movie are the two child actors, Chloe Grace Moretz as Abby and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen. I’m one of the hardest people to please when it comes to child actors, but these two were great. There was just such a natural transition in their onscreen relationship from the awkward first phases of childhood interaction to their adorable ‘going steady’ phase that is so difficult to replicate in any movie, no matter how well-acted or well-written (and it is well-written).
Fortunately, these two kids are great at what they do. It’s necessary that they be incredible, because they’re the only characters on screen for most of the film. The chemistry between the two is phenomenal, and Chloe Grace Moretz is just incredible as Abby, able to handle both the seamier side of vampire living and the permanent little girl aspect with spectacular skill. As for Kodi Smit-McPhee, as his name suggests, he looks like the kind of pasty, bloodless child that would be really picked on by bullies (and the bullies look like pretty good bully caricatures, for what it’s worth).
This isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. After all, most vampire romances are geared towards, you know, teenagers. There’s no male model lead character here, and, thankfully, nobody sparkles. Instead, there’s legitimate emotion, legitimate fear, and some surprisingly vivid violence. This isn’t the glory of immortal youth, but the darker, lonely side of never growing up.
US correspondent Ron Hogan is glad that he lives in a relatively warm area of the world. Snow is good, but not snow to this degree. Find more by Ron at his blog, Subtle Bluntness, and daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.