Let Me In (2010) dir. Matt Reeves
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas
By Alan Bacchus
Kudos to Matt Reeves. He and the producers took a lot of slack when it was announced the critical fave and international genre hit Let the Right One In was going to be remade in Hollywood. Cries afoul be silenced. Reeves achieves a rarity of a remake being, hell yeah, I’ll say it, better than the original. And for the record, it's not really 'Hollywood', the production company in the recently revived Hammer Films, the same British B-Movie stalwarts of old.
The story is almost exactly the same with only a few minor tweeks, but tweeks significant enough to improve on the former and offer a deeper, even more penetrating cinematic experience of genre horror.
Of course, we all know the story, a young boy (named Owen here) child to a single absent-minded mother in a small remote snowcapped town befriends his new female neighbour, a young vampire named Abby. The relationship grows from curiosity into a strange pre-pubescent love affair which fosters the boy’s self confidence to stand up to the bullies in school. And for Abby, a new companionship with a mortal and replacing her former life long paternal figure, played by Richard Jenkins..
Tonally Reeves hits the same mark as Tomas Alfredson’s masterful treatment of his version of the story - and remember it was a book first and so the Swedish version isn’t technically an original either. Michael Giacchino’s glorious music score (the best he’s ever done) sets the pace, simple piano melodies and string arrangements conveying a sense of sad melancholy.
Such is the existence of Abby, who seems to have lived the life as a 12 year old girl for hundred or so years. It takes just a little tweek in revealing her backstory to open deeper more complex layers to her character. Specifically her relationship with ‘father figure‘ (Richard Jenkins), which is given more attention than the original. Reeves moves the film in a direction even the Swedes wouldn't go - that is, a tender and possibly sexual relationship between father and daughter. It’s handled ever so delicately, nothing shocking or disturbing, but a connection between the two which is genuine and heartbreaking.
Reeves amplifies the horror for a more satisfying genre experience. More blood, more suspense and bigger bloody payoffs still manage to fit in and stay true to the poetic and melancholic nature of the story. But it’s child stars Moretz and Smit-McPhee who are simply marvelous which put the icing on the cake. Neither actor trumps the other, an equal match for both - arguably two Oscar-worthy performances. And wouldn’t that be a story? Two child actors from the same movie in contention. But let‘s not get ahead of ourselves. Let Me In couldn’t have been any better than it is. A remarkable achievement considering the extraordinarily high expectations.