- Written and Directed by Matt Reeves
- September 13, 2010 (TIFF) / October 1, 2010 (United States) / November 5, 2010 (UK)
A lonely and bullied boy whose parents are going through a divorce befriends a young vampire living with her guardian.
Let Me In is a disturbing horror film. Not necessarily frightening but rather disturbing. It is dark and moody and touches on things other than the supernatural or vampires. There are elements of loneliness and friendship and how children can fall through the cracks.
This is not a frightening vampire movie but more of a creepy and darkly romantic vampire movie. The vampire in this film (though she and no one else calls her a “vampire”) is a 12-year-old girl who in her own words at one point says she has “been 12 for a very long time.” For me that line implied so much more than her being stuck at that age. She had been surviving quite well posing as a harmless child for quite some time.
From where I sit I love how she did not actually befriend the boy but rather was grooming her next caretaker much like she did with her current caretaker decades earlier. And the current one knows it. She is a predator through and through yet not obviously so.
Kodi Smit-McPhee plays Owen who is a 12-year-old bullied schoolboy. All but forgotten about by his alcoholic mother and crappy father as they go through a divorce, Owen is alone in dealing with Kenny (Dylan Minnette) and his friends as they torment him. Owen who has been bullied for far too long and just wants an escape and he sees Abby as his only way out. Smit-McPhee gives Owen a vulnerability tinged with pain and desperation.
Chloë Grace Moretz stars as Abby who is an eternally young vampire. How old she is never is revealed but considering how easily she handles things you get the feeling she is very old and thus has been doing this a very long time. She comes off as young and vulnerable when needed but is also capable of great savagery. Moretz makes Abby charming and dangerous at all the right points. Together with Smit-McPhee she builds a sophisticated romance between two children and crafts a complex character.
Thomas (Richard Jenkins), Abby’s current guardian, is growing older and comes off from the start as tired. While Abby is the monster, Thomas has been the one doing the hunting. At the start (or second start since the film is mostly flashback) Thomas is attempting to drain blood from his latest victim for Abby but spills it when a small patch of ice gives way. He has grown sloppy and possibly subconsciously is seeking to get caught.
When Abby and Owen first meet it is a rather stilted interaction. I think she is just killing boredom as she waits for her meal to come home but when she realizes Thomas can no longer provide, she begins to groom Owen. She gives him with the friendship and attention he has been lacking from those that should have been giving it to him. She gives him something to run towards.
In the mix we have the very talented Elias Koteas as an unnamed police detective investigating the killings which are the result of Thomas. Being the 80s he jumps to the conclusion of it being a devil worshiping cult and unlike many horror movies at no point does he come to think he’s dealing with a vampire.
This movie was produced by the resurrected Hammer Films. Hammer was ahead of its time back in the day in making unique and very memorable horror and science-fiction films. I think this particular movie does a good job of carrying on that legacy even if the iteration of the company does not have a direct connection to its founding.
Let Me In is a remake of the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In which in turn is based on a book. I am very curious what that movie was like and how closely this follows the original. Elements were changed to make it less Swedish but the producers claimed to have followed the original closely.
John Nordling and Carl Molinder, who were producers of the Swedish original film, were both involved as producers for this adaptation. Tomas Alfredson, the director of the Swedish film, was asked to direct but turned it down and has since come out against making this very film. I certainly see his point that only bad movies should be remade.
The big clue to what is going on between Abby and Thomas and how it parallels Abby and Owen is a very old photobooth picture of her and Thomas from when he was very young. Physically in the picture Thomas looks a lot like Owen leading you to think that there is a type that Abby searches out whenever she needs someone new. She finds a young kid who is living a rough life and offers them the illusion of something better. Like any predator she hunts and she grooms. That is some heavy stuff in my opinion.
You can consider what is going on between Owen and Abby a dark romance. She is the only person he has encountered that acts like she truly cares about him and he reciprocates what he sees as love. He has no friends and his parents are neglectful and only Abby shows an interest. It is a toxic relationship with a supernatural entity.
Let Me In did not click with audiences for whatever reason and barely earned more than it cost to make. Maybe it was the Hammer name attached and audiences thinking they were going to get something they did not. Maybe “remake” was enough for people to turn away. Who knows? Regardless this is a very good film that deserves some attention.
Let Me In is a great movie. It has a good script and an interesting story and is a unique take on the vampire horror genre with great direction and performances. This is definitely a watch it.