For the purposes of this review, let’s pretend for a moment that there was never a Swedish movie called “Let the Right One In”. Are we pretending? Good, let’s begin.
“Let Me In” is a brilliant little piece of movie making. As much as I enjoyed Matt Reeves’ previous flick, “Cloverfield,” I had no idea he had this in him. It’s a big jump from “Found Footage” to the moody, atmospheric bit of horror this is and he makes it with style. While he doesn’t get everything right, the sum of its parts succeeds.
I must make mention of one thing that got me waaay more excited than it should have, and it happened before the credits rolled. This is a Hammer movie. How amazing is that? When I saw the Hammer logo come up at the start, I let out a small squeal of delight. I have never seen this in the theaters with a new movie. And to have the name of arguably the greatest name in filmed horror appear again is reason to celebrate. Okay, enough fanboy-gasm, let’s get back to the task at hand…
Placing the action in Los Alamos, New Mexico was a stroke of brilliance. Beyond the stigma (for lack of a better word) that this town brings with it, it’s just such a…loser of a town. It comes across as not so much a town where everyone who lives there has given up as they just don’t care enough to give up, let alone do anything else. The local hangout for the kids is a drug store. The apartment where much of the action takes place is made of cinder blocks. Cinder blocks!! Not to mention it being the home to possibly the most depressing playground on earth. I’ve had Communist era playgrounds in Poland described to me and they weren’t as sad as this so-called jungle gym. I wanted to eat my shotgun just looking at it. The place simply has a feel of beige, even in the clear white snow. It is a place where people are born already wishing to escape and it is a place people go to not to be noticed/not have anyone care you are there. People like Abby and her “father”.
See, Abby doesn’t want to be noticed. Abby just wants to stay put and when hungry, feed on the fresh, human blood her “father” brings home to her. It’s apparently a life that works and has for years…except for the times when she does get noticed and has to leave town. Two things throw a bit of a monkey wrench into the status quo. One, the “father” (yes, he is not her real father, no, they don’t spell out for you who he is but if you pay attention you will figure it out and it will kind of break your heart for multiple reasons) is frankly tired of being the blood getter, of finding, killing and draining random people. He’s getting sloppy and he’s getting bitter. The other is Abby meeting Owen.
Owen is a young boy who lives in the apartment next door. He’s an average boy dealing with his parents impending divorce, being mercilessly bullied at school and his fledgling homicidal tendencies. He’s pretty much alone with a father who’s just a voice on a telephone line, and one that only seems to care when he can bad mouth mom, and a mom who cares about him, but simply is not part of his life. Owen has no friends. He only seems to come to life when spying on neighbors through his telescope or imagining his bloody revenge on those that have wronged him. Along comes Abby, either the best or worst thing that could happen to him.
The bulk of the movie is their growing relationship, the kind of relationship we only have once in our life, our first love. The nervousness, the excitement, the “What the hell do I do now” feelings of it, all are played out beautifully by our two stars, Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Road”) and our favorite little Hit Girl, Chloë Grace Moretz (“Kick-Ass”). This is a tough movie to rest upon the shoulders of two young actors and with lesser talent it would have collapsed. I’m glad to say it doesn’t. In fact, all the performances are top notch from Richard Jenkins as the “father,” Dylan Minnette as a bully you just want to slap the crap out of…until the third act when you might actually feel a little sorry for him realizing why he’s the way he is, to Elias Koteas as the local cop, reminding us he’s one of the most underrated actors working today. Seriously, have you ever seen him not give the best performance of any picture he’s in?
About the only time the movie doesn’t work for me is when Abby is on the attack. It wasn’t as comical to me as it is to some, but it just isn’t real, and it sticks out when everything else is so beautifully rooted in reality…as rooted in reality as we can be with a movie about a possibly hundreds of years old 12-year-old vampire girl. It’s obviously CGI and just kind of silly. However, the Regan-like makeup on her when she gets to a-feedin’ I found quite effective.
I simply loved this movie. The direction, the acting, the story, the over-all feel of it, it just works. It is an effective horror flick seen through the prism of pre-adolescent first love.
Now, let’s stop pretending “Let the Right One In” doesn’t exist. I feel that “Let the Right One In” may be the best vampire movie ever made. Is this remake better? No. Does it get some parts better? Hell yeah. Replacing the drunk guys with Elias’ cop is better on many levels. The drunk guys were kind of annoying and it makes more sense this way as it would be a police officer trying to figure out what’s going on. The “father” is better simply because he is now played by Richard Jenkins. While the CGI of Abby’s attacks is not very good, it in no way compares to the embarrassment of the CGI cat scene in the original. The two kids are pretty much on equal footing for me. I felt a little more comfortable with Kodi than his Swedish counterpart, but for the purpose of a story like this, I’m not sure that is a good thing. And Chloë is simply amazing as she is in everything she does, but so was her Swedish counterpart.
The main problem with this remake was it came second. It will never have the affect of discovery that the original had, of seeing a vampire story told in a way we’ve never seen before, of meeting these characters for the first time and the discoveries of who they all are, not to mention the stunning climax in the pool house. No matter how good “Let Me In” is…and it is very, very good…it will always live in a pretty big shadow.
Which should in no way keep you from seeing it. It’s a good movie. It’s a good horror movie in theaters where quality in horror is so often punished in exchange for cheap scares and the latest crop of “CW” friendly faces.
And, most importantly, it centers on a vampire who doesn’t sparkle in the damn sun.
Anchor Bay presents Let Me In on Blu-ray with an appealing 2.40:1 transfer that boasts exceptional fine detail, vibrant colors, and consistent and inky blacks. The film has something of a smeared/blur effect around the edges at times, which was an artistic choice and in no way is an issue with the transfer. There’s a small amount of cinematic grain, especially during darker scenes, but no visible signs of compression. The quality transfer is complimented by a robust and atmospheric 5.1 Dolby True HD track that is something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Let Me In, like the film it’s based on, is a quiet movie for the most part, but, when the action kicks in, the track explodes with aggressive bass and shattering highs. The surrounds are used to great effect, with nicely mixed directional effects and ambient sounds. My only real gripe is that the dialogue sounded as though it were mixed a bit low and, to hear it comfortably, the film had to be played at a higher volume than most.
Extras include an audio commentary with Matt Reeves that is insightful and entertaining, as well as a series of short featurettes, including:
From the Inside: A Look at the Making-of Let Me In featurette
The Art of Special F/X featurette
Car Crash Sequence Step-by-Step featurette
In addition to the commentary there’s also a PiP feature entitled Dissecting Let Me In Picture-in-Picture (exclusive to Blu-ray), a selection of deleted scenes/extended scenes, poster gallery, trailers, the ubiquitous Digital Copy of the film, and a nifty mini-comic prequel from Dark Horse Comics. It’s a great collection of extras to complement a great film.