By Sally Campbell
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 352

Let Me In

This article is over 11 years, 9 months old
Director: Matt Reeves; Release date: 5 November
Issue 352

Let Me In ticks three boxes which put it firmly at the top of the “current trends” pile.

Firstly, it’s a film about young people, one of whom is a vampire. Thankfully these are not the tortured teenagers of the Twilight saga, whose petulant faces give me a whole new insight into why my mum didn’t take me seriously when I was 15. Our protagonists are 12 year olds (“or thereabouts”, in the case of Abby, the vampire). This is a much less examined age, a precipice between childhood and full-on adolescence.

Owen is a lonely boy, bullied at school and living through his parents’ bitter divorce. His dad never visits and his mum passes out every night after too much wine. He spends much of his time alone in the cheap-looking housing estate in a dead-end, bleak New Mexico town. When Abby moves in she warns him that they can’t be friends, but they are drawn to each other.

Dead townspeople have started turning up drained of their blood and the police are looking for a ritual killer. The vampire action is sparing, though there is plenty of gore – perhaps too much.

The second box it ticks is “retro”. The film is set in the early 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan made his “evil empire” speech. The old trick of putting a telly in the background showing Reagan’s talking head is employed several times, and 1980s pop music is used liberally in case we hadn’t worked it out yet. But the bleakness of the town and the heightened sense of fear of an evil at home certainly speak of the time.

Finally, it’s a remake. This is the major problem. Let the Right One In, the brilliant Swedish original based on a novel of the same name, was released in 2009. Like every other successful “foreign” film, the rights were immediately snapped up for an English language remake. Many such remakes have been weak (The Grudge starring Sarah Michelle Gellar) or actively terrible (Nicolas Cage in City of Angels), while others have successfully reinterpreted the material to make a different film (The Departed).

Let Me In is an almost exact replica in which the only changes – more gore, more religion, less ambiguity – serve to make it slightly worse. I found it impossible not to run the original film through my head as I watched. I cannot give any credit to the director, Matt Reeves, who made the low-budget horror hit Cloverfield. However, the leads – Chloe Grace Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee – won me over. Their performances are brilliant, understated, sweet and awkward – just as lonely 12 year olds are. I can’t say I would recommend this over the original, but these young actors certainly deserve an audience.

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