Let Me In (2010)

Let Me In is a well crafted horror-drama remake that does little to improve on the original. Ultimately needless unless you really hate reading subtitles, Let Me In is a solid and entertaining piece of work.

It’s 1983 and twelve year old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is unhappy. He is being bullied at school and his parents are getting a divorce. He lives in a dull apartment complex in snowy New Mexico with his ambivalent mother and spying on his neighbours is his greatest source of joy. One evening, however, everything changes when his newest neighbours arrive – an old man and his bare-footed daughter…

It is the age of instant remakes. If a foreign language film proves popular it’s instantly remade in the English language, often shot-for-shot (see Rec / Quarantine), and this frequently happens to easily translatable genres such as thriller and horror (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy being a prime example of this). Writer/Director Matt Reeves has repeatedly insisted Let Me In is an adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel Let The Right One In, and not his film. However, it does feel more like an adaptation of the 2008 movie than the actual source material.

This review, however, will not dwell heavily on comparisons. The Americanised version is not better than Let The Right One In. The original is excellent, with much more depth, character, themes and subtleties, but this does not make Let Me In terrible, it just makes it vastly pointless unless you really loathe subtitles. This review is based upon this, but it cannot ignore the quality of Reeves’ Let Me In. And there is plenty of quality.

The story seems initially like a boy-meets-girl drama, with adding bullying and weirdness, but quickly we realise something is seriously wrong with Abby (Chloe Moretz) and her Father (Richard Jenkins). When some of the local population are murdered or go missing, suspicions begin to rise, and Owen realises he may have befriended someone dangerous… and not entirely human.

The vampire element itself is luckily not intrusive or tacked-on. It looks at the odd ballet of love and friendship in young immortals, where timeless youth will keep someone from ever growing old physically, but also maybe mentally. It’s a haunting concept and although this is touched upon in Let Me In, it is more fully explored within Let The Right One In.

Thankfully Let Me In is more of a drama than it is a horror film, and this is true to the novel, which explores many themes from friendship and paedophilia to the deep-rooted nature of violence, as well as the intricacies of eternal life. Ultimately the entire story rests upon the realism of Owen and Abby’s relationship, and Matt Reeves fortuitously had Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee cast as these two titular characters. They are excellent throughout, both utterly compelling and believable in their roles. Having given pitch-perfect performances in Kick Ass and The Road respectively, both these young actors will hopefully have deservedly long and prosperous careers. Let Me In is worth watching for their performances alone.

Writer / Director Matt Reeves is also worthy of a lengthy career. Although his scripting of Let Me In is nothing spectacular, his direction is outstanding in places. It is a master class of the interesting shot, some of which are stolen directly from Let The Right One In (the pool scene) and others that are fresh and exciting. The face of Owen’s pointless Mother is cunningly never seen and a car crash witnessed from inside the vehicle is both powerfully confusing and genuinely awe-inspiring.

Matt Reeves directed the break-out sci-fi actioner Cloverfield, so it’s clear he has a certain flair for the visually arresting. Let Me In is a beautiful film in places and very well crafted, although Reeves sometimes dips dangerously into “Hollywood Horror” territory, which is awkward for a film so adamantly attempting to be a character-led supernatural drama.

There are a number of fundamental problems with Let Me In that are difficult to ignore. There is needless use of CGI during some of the scenes where Abby attacks people or clambers up objects – it is clearly fake and awkwardly done. Rather than appear creepy or unnatural, it simply looks badly staged, and sits ill with the gradual unfolding drama surrounding it. This is also horribly apparent in the hospital fire scene, which is so explosive and sudden it is actually quite funny… and really shouldn’t be.

Furthermore, the characters can occasionally dip into cliché, and it’s a little frustrating considering the depth of the source material. It also seems mildly pointless setting the story in the 80’s – all it did was add an interesting soundtrack to a story that could’ve been timeless and contemporary – especially considering modern audience’s obsession with vampirism.

Any issues with Let Me In are not overly detrimental to the film as a whole, especially if you’ve never seen the original, but stylistically it does occasionally feel awkward. As one of the first films from the newly re-formed Hammer Studios, however, it is a quality effort and well worth supporting.

Let Me In is deftly made and enjoyable. It fails on a number of levels, but those fresh to the story will thoroughly enjoy themselves. Even the firmest advocate of Let The Right On In should watch this, as it’s an impressive showcase for the talent of Moretz, Smit-McPhee and Reeves. Let Me In is a solid piece of horror drama.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

One Comment on “Let Me In”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dave Scullion, Dave Scullion. Dave Scullion said: Cinema this weekend? Wondering what to watch / avoid? WATCH: http://bit.ly/dSxF4z AVOID: http://bit.ly/giZG0r GOD NO!: http://bit.ly/fnXpsm [...]

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.