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Country: United States
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Grace Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas
Director: Matt Reeves
Run time: 115 minutes
DVD distributor: Alliance Films
It was a smart idea to cast Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace Moretz as the two stars of Let Me In, on DVD February 1st from Alliance Films. Both Smit-McPhee (The Road) and Moretz (Kick-Ass) are accustomed to playing dark characters beyond their years in recent movies. And both are wonderful in this film.
But what most people will be wondering here is not how good the young actors are, but rather how well the film holds up to the international hit Let The Right One In. Let Me In is a direct remake of the amazing Swedish film. And the answer is – no. The American version is not as good. But…it’s very close. Thanks to Smit-McPhee and Moretz, and the haunting pace of the film, Let Me In stands on its own as a very good horror flick.
Young Owen (Smit-McPhee) is viciously bullied at school. As in most movies of this nature, the bullies are cartoonish – their physical assaults and savage taunts of this boy could not help but be noticed by someone in authority somewhere. Bullying at school is a problem these days because it rarely manifests itself in actual physical beatings, at which point the schools can do something concrete about it.
But at least we understand Owen’s bitter, angry outlook at the world. He goes to school and gets savagely, mercilessly attacked every day. Then he goes home and his mom seems to barely notice he exists. She is not exactly an appropriate confidante for this young kid. I was never sure why she was so unavailable (and almost not in the movie at all – she’s more like one of those off screen adults in a Peanuts TV special who speak in trombone voices).
So it’s natural that Owen feels a certain kinship with Abby (Moretz), the little girl who has just moved in next door and who wanders about at night just as Owen does. Abby realizes that they both have another underlying connection – Owen harbours an intense desire to hurt the bullies who are hurting him, and Abby has her own vicious streak in that she’s a vampire.
Not, of course, a vampire in the sparkle-shitty Twilight sense, or the romantic-ridiculous Vampire Diaries sense. Abby and her companion-protector (Richard Jenkins) are more like the secretive murderers-next-door in a Hitchcock movie. They try to protect their secret, but when Jenkins suddenly disappears Abby must make it on her own. Now she and Owen are pretty much alone in the world.
The one major problem I had with the American version of the film was that it really danced around one of the most interesting premises in the whole movie. The idea that this girl appears to be a 12-year-old, but is really much older. And that Owen IS 12 years old, and of course very curious about sexuality and the like. All we get here is a couple of shots of him spying on the hot neighbour next door having sex, and a few awkwardly sweet scenes where Abby and Owen lie in bed together or change in the same room.
In place of what could be a really interesting moral dilemma that haunts the movie even further, we get what American movies always deliver. Less sex, less uncomfortableness, more violence. Let Me In is definitely bloodier than its Swedish counterpart, but that does not make it any better. In fact, it makes it worse. But it’s still good, and the original is only marginally better.