Let Me In
Director: Matt Reeves
Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee
Review: 4.5 stars (of five)
Remaking the celebrated Swedish cult film Let the Right One In with the same thoughtful, meditative vibe, similar directorial style and pretty much the exact same story might seem like a dumb idea—the original is damned good on its own, and screw people who think reading subtitles is too much work. But Matt Reeves creates an excellent film that stands proudly beside its Swedish original. Mostly he can thank his excellent lead actors, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace Moretz.
It’s been a pretty damned good year for thirteen-year-old Chloe Grace Moretz. She had a memorable supporting role in Diary of a Wimpy Kid, in which she shone among a talented young cast, and she was the foul-mouthed action heroine “Hit Girl” in Kick Ass, in which she shown despite having to do most of her scenes with the addled remnants of Nicolas Cage.
The girl is a fantastic young actress, and in the understated Let Me In she really brings the goods, breaking your heart with a single silent glance. I remember another vampire film, the atmospheric but overwrought Interview With a Vampire, in which a very young Kirsten Dunst was clearly a prodigy as an old vampire trapped in a child’s body. Multiply that by ten, and settle back to watch this girl’s career.
Her co-star, Kodi Smit-McPhee (the boy in The Road), also gives a terrific performance. But he’s a creepy-looking kid playing a creepy, lonely kid, and is a little off-putting where Moretz, despite the nature of her character, draws the viewer in.
The story, well, is there anyone left who doesn’t know that the little girl isn’t exactly a little girl? This is a monster thing, and you’re half a sentence from the spoiler. She’s a vampire. They’re pretty up-front about it in the marketing, you know. The film is admirably restrained, though, teasing out a few scenes of real gore or violence, but mostly letting an unsettling, quietly tense atmosphere carry the film. In fact, the brief, computer-enhanced scenes of supernatural violence are the film’s least effective, looking too unreal in a movie that’s otherwise painfully quotidian.
You could almost carve out a new genre between this and George Clooney’s The American. The latter took the ideas for a high-octane action thriller and turned it into a low-key character study, a terrific film that requires the audience to do more work than the stunt team. Let Me In similarly leaves out a bunch of the usual flash to let the audience’s imagination take over, as the filmmaker devotes more energy to quiet moments with a skilled cast.
If you prefer your horror in the torture-porn flavor, or your character dramas with fewer traumatic jugular wounds, I suppose you can skip this one, but you’ll be missing out on a damned good thing.