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October 1, 2010
Review - " Let Me In "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Let Me In
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Starring: Chloe Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Richard Jenkins, Cara
Buono, Elias Koteas

I chose to celebrate Delta Films Day by, what else, going to the
movies. I went to see the highly anticipated and partially filmed in
Boston "The Social Network" and an American remake of the most
excellent Swedish film "Let the Right One In" this time titled simply
"Let Me In"

Let Me In, a truly terrific remake of the 2008 Swedish vampire movie
Let The Right One In, which itself was a horror movie so strong that it
was instantly regarded as a classic by fans and critics alike.  Here’s a
little heresy for you:  The remake even arguably improves on the
original in some ways – at least as far as for the tastes of American

Both stories center around the unconventional love story between a
troubled boy and an ancient vampire who is forever a little girl.  The
American version casts Chloe Moretz (500 Days Of Summer, Kick
Ass) as a more emotionally open, more charismatic, and less
androgynous rendition of the original character (here called Abby
rather than Eli), and casts Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) as a more
talkative, less androgynous, but more immediately creepy rendition of
the original character (now called Owen rather than Oskar).  Owen
has the same ominous fascination with knives that Oskar had, but he
also likes to wear spooky masks and talk into the mirror.  He’s
sympathetic and sweet, but obviously open to a friendship with a
vampire girl.
Which is what happens when he meets his new neighbors, Abby and her intimidating guardian, played by the great character
actor Richard Jenkins (Step Brothers, The Visitor).  Owen assumes that the imposing man is her father, who he can hear
shouting at her through the walls to not befriend Owen.  Owen’s own parents are a non-entity – his father has left, and shows
little interest, and his mother has a double-dependence on booze and Jesus.  Owen’s mom is played by the very cute Cara
Buono (from The Sopranos, Mad Men, and Beer League), who is unfortunately kept just off camera in her every
appearance, like the grown-ups in a Charlie Brown special – it’s meant to emphasize Owen’s distance from all of the should-
be protective adults in his life.  Smart directorial choice, but unfair to Cara Buono appreciators.

Anyway, it’s not a spoiler to reveal that Abby is actually a vampire with a need to feed, and while I won’t reveal the
relationship of Richard Jenkins’ character to her, it’s safe to say that he isn’t her father.  Abby and Owen, for better or worse,
begin to develop an unconventional friendship with faint and innocent but definitely romantic overtones.  They meet in the
apartment complex courtyard at night, and during the day Owen navigates a tormented existence at school, facing cruel
bullies who seem determined to punish him for his oddness.  In the meantime, Abby’s nocturnal feeding process is revealed
in increasing detail, and if you think that these two story threads eventually intersect, you may have seen the original movie
(or you’re just smart – good for you!)

I insinuated that Let Me In has some
improvements in store:  One of them is the
scenes with Richard Jenkins – no disrespect
to the very effective Swedish actor from the
original film, but there are a couple moments
in the movie where Richard Jenkins goes off
on his own to carry the narrative, and there’s
no parallel to an experienced character
actor with an impressive list of credits.  The
equally distinguished Elias Koteas also
makes a key appearance, as the police
detective who picks up on the increasingly-
warm trail of blood.  He’s wearing drab period
costuming (the movie is set in the early
1980s), but he still makes a profound
impression as a lawman who, again depending
how you look at it, is technically the good guy.  
Koteas embodies that ambiguity perfectly –
charismatic and friendly enough that you root
for him to solve the crime, but not so much that you don’t want Abby to be discovered.

Neither of these two guys are huge stars and you’d probably know their faces long before their names, but they’re two of the
most superlative character actors in modern movies, and they effectively elevate Let Me In, which is already pretty darn good
thanks to the efforts of director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield).  Let Me In has an impressive sense of atmosphere and beautiful
photography.  The orchestral score by Michael Giacchino is particularly evocative – it’s one of the best horror-movie scores I’
ve heard in quite some time.  (There’s also some pretty awesome and disturbing burn-victim make-up on display, but I won’t
talk at length about that because it would reveal a plot point.)  I can honestly say that Let Me In would have worked on me
exactly as intended – scary, upsetting, touching, unforgettable – if I didn’t already know what was going to happen from
seeing Let The Right One In.
That’s the entire problem right there:  As
good as Let Me In is, in the end it isn’t
necessary.  It won’t serve as an effective
gateway to the original film:  If Let Me In
introduces American audiences to this
story, they won’t need to seek out Let The
Right One In.  And honestly, its target
audience, horror connoisseurs and other
people amenable to fringe material like
this, have probably already seen Let The
Right One In – as excellent and as distinct
as this recreation is, it’s still a very faithful
adaptation of a fairly recent film.

So what am I saying?  This, essentially:  If
you haven’t seen Let The Right One In and
you hate subtitles, I strongly encourage
you to seek out Let Me In.  It’s an excellent,
sophisticated, and unusual horror film.  But
if you have seen Let The Right One In?  
Well, how do you feel about great bands
covering songs by other great bands?