Reviews

Matt Reeves

USA, 2010

Credits

Review by Victoria Large

Posted on 29 October 2010

Source Overture Films 35mm print

Categories 31 Days of Horror VII

As an admirer of 2008’s Let the Right One In, a vampire film from Sweden that was among last decade’s best horror pictures, I was intensely skeptical of Cloverfield director Matt Reeves’ new English language remake, Let Me In. The project seemed unnecessary and had potentially negative consequences: a poor copy could lead viewers to avoid the original altogether. Yet Let Me In, which moves the story from suburban Stockholm to New Mexico but retains the original’s 1980s time frame, is far better than I had hoped, successfully recreating much of the first film’s appeal and even introducing a few flourishes of its own.

It’s true that fans of the Swedish film will miss the sense of discovery that accompanied their first time seeing this story onscreen: it’s no accident that Reeves’ take is credited as been based on both the novel and the screenplay penned by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Let Me In often matches the tone and even the look of its predecessor. Certain scenes provide strong visual echoes of director Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In and suffer a bit by comparison. For example, when the children at the heart of the story meet for the first time (the original’s Oskar and Eli are here renamed Owen and Abby, respectively), Reeves replicates the eerie jungle gym scene from Alfredson’s film, but it feels like a doomed attempt to capture a very fleeting magic. Similarly, the impact of the scene where vampire Abby demonstrates what happens to her when she enters a home without a proper invite is blunted by how closely it hews to the iconic original.

Of course, none of this will bother viewers coming to this story for the first time, and there’s plenty about Let Me In that really, really works. Young actors Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz turn in wonderful performances as Owen and Abby, two troubled souls whose adolescent love story is touching and unsettling in equal measure. Richard Jenkins is disturbing yet affectingly tragic as Abby’s unnamed guardian and accomplice, a grown man who spends his life slitting throats to feed the appetites of a monstrous child. The implication that Jenkins’ character represents a possible future for Owen feels particularly strong in this adaptation, infusing the story with a potent sense of slow doom that’s rare even in horror films. Reeves demonstrates a knack for creepiness and suspense throughout the film, perhaps never more so than in a killer sequence that finds Jenkins lurking in the backseat of a potential teenage victim, waiting to strike. Jenkins is a nightmare vision in a makeshift mask made from a garbage bag, and as the scene escalates into a tremendously effective car crash sequence, Let Me In definitely earns its horror stripes.

The film also has an admirable sense of humor, getting a lot of mileage out of its eighties setting. Owen and Abby bond over a Pac Man arcade game, and great use is made of a minor character’s Walkman, which is constantly blasting David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” Indeed, the soundtrack choices frequently raise a smile, with Blue Oyster Cult’s “Burnin’ for You” coming to mind as the most gruesomely (in)appropriate. Reeves’ nostalgic streak might have been a bit too broad in another film, but Let Me In is gritty enough that the laughs make for a much needed relief. (I’ll even cop to having laughed at a Boy George gag twelve years after the release of The Wedding Singer.) Owen’s obsession with Now and Later candies and their infectious jingle makes for the best running gag of the film—its repetition vacillates between creepy and cute, much like Owen himself.

Days after seeing Let Me In, still humming that stupid Now and Later jingle, I have to admit that Reeves has pulled off the near-impossible by taking a film I really like and making… another film that I really like. Richard Roeper once compared the 2006 remake of the horror classic The Omen to a good cover of a beloved rock song, and perhaps it’s appropriate that I can think of no better way to describe this latest take on Lindqvist’s Morrissey-inspired novel. Let Me In may be a song you’ve heard before, but it still sounds great.

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