Let Me In (review)

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It is a strange and curious thing that director Matt Reeves chose to follow up his uniquely distinctive Cloverfield with a film that is, if not precisely a shot for shot remake of the Swedish-language Let the Right One In, then at least a tonal copy. Everything about Let Me In that might have made me say, “Hey, that’s sorta different,” or “We haven’t quite seen that before” has been lifted almost wholesale from Tomas Alfredson’s original film. Of course, what Reeves — working from John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Swedish novel and screenplay — does give us isn’t quite like what we get from Hollywood, and since this will surely reach a much wider audience than the first film did, it’s overall a plus. The story of an odd, lonely, bullied 12-year-old, Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee: The Road), who befriends neighborhood newcomer Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz: Kick-Ass) — she appears to be 12-year-old but is actually (no spoilers!) a very old vampire — is far more explicit in this iteration, not just in its level of violence, which is more graphic and gory, but also in its lack of ambiguity about what is going on. Much that unfolded slowly and with a wonderfully murky suspense in the first film is presented in a straightforward, crisp manner here: it’s more Hollywood than the Swedish film, but still downright arthousey for a major North American release… which will probably end up frustrating both ends of the moviegoing spectrum. (I loved its neither here-nor-there-ness.) One thing is for sure: Fans of a certain new aspect Let the Right One In brought to the vampire genre will be disappointed to find that it is not reflected here… although, interestingly, it’s here where a hazy vagueness leaves room for a new interpretation of the strange, lovely relationship between Abby and Owen. The kids’ performances are hugely satisfying — these are two immensely talented young actors — and in supporting roles, the indispensable Richard Jenkins (Eat Pray Love), as Abby’s guardian, and Elias Koteas (Shutter Island), as a cop investigating the spate of mysterious deaths in town, are fantastic. Definitely a must-see for anyone who loves vampires but hates what Twilight has done to them, even fans of the original, who’ll find much to chew over in how seemingly small alterations can significantly change the impact of a story.

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