Let Me In
Directed by Matt Reeves
Starring Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee
Can a monster be innocent? Let Me In examines this question through the eyes of two very different children. It is an American horror movie quite different from anything else released in the genre in recent memory. Director Matt Reeves has put together an incredibly faithful remake of Let the Right One In, a beautiful 2008 Swedish horror film that never found much of an audience stateside. Reeves’ respect for the original film is both his triumph and his undoing, as North American audiences may not know what to make of this new version.
The film is primarily about a friendship between two 12-year-olds who, for different reasons, are both outsiders. The protagonist, Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), is a strange kid who is picked on at school by a gang of bullies. They beat him up and call him a little girl. Owen spends his evenings peering into the windows of the other tenants in his apartment block and fantasizing about getting back at his tormentors.
Then one night, a little girl moves in next door to Owen. Abby (Chloe Moretz) is an outsider for a completely different reason. She is a vampire. Although Owen doesn’t know she is a monster, he instantly recognizes that she isn’t normal. In spite of this, the two of them get along very well. Unfortunately, Abby’s monstrous nature is not easily contained, and their friendship soon becomes complicated.
The performances by the film’s child actors are its greatest successes. Owen’s weirdness is natural to the point that the viewer doesn’t question his loyalty to Abby once things get out of hand. Chloe Moretz, who recently gained acclaim for her role as Hit Girl in Kick Ass, is fantastic as a girl who says she has “been 12 for a very long time.” Moretz projects an innocence that is crucial to Abby as a sympathetic character.
Let Me In just feels different than other American movies. The pace is much slower than regular Hollywood fare, especially for the genre. It never feels like the director is rushing to get to the next bit of horror. Instead, characters interact with each other, relationships evolve, and when violence occurs because of Abby’s ferocious urges, the effect is striking.
The film is excellent, but it is worth asking whether or not it really needs to exist. By sticking so closely to the tone and plot of the original Swedish film, Matt Reeves may have prevented Let Me In from finding a much wider audience than its predecessor. The biggest difference between the two versions is that this version doesn’t have subtitles, and the type of viewer that is totally put off by subtitles in foreign films will still have trouble getting into Let Me In because of its atypical pacing and structure.