"Do you think there's such thing as evil?"
After every passing day, it seems Hollywood is resigned to spitting out sour story lines and rehashed material. Rightfully so, when word escaped that an Americanized version of Tomas Alfredson's LET THE RIGHT ONE IN was coming--only two years after its release--a strong opposition was voiced. Some hailed Alfredson's imagining as an instant classic, and one of the best horror films of the last few decades. Matt Reeves (CLOVERFIELD) was given the reins to LET ME IN, and with it the unenviable task of appeasing the masses. And, it pains me to say it, but he maybe have succeeded.
Stockholm has been replaced with Los Alamos, New Mexico, but mercifully, the age of the main characters remain intact. The original had an innocence that was prevalent throughout. At its most basic form, LET ME IN is a love story. Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is the bullied kid in school. He is frail and unassuming. His parents have divorced, or soon will be. One night, Owen spies Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz) and her guardian moving into his apartment complex. Abby doesn't wear shoes--a curious decision during the winter. After an initial reluctance by both parties, a bond is formed. Typical adolescent banter follows.
"You smell funny," remarks Owen. "How old are you?"
"Twelve," Abby returns. "More or less."
We learn that, indeed, Abby is twelve years old, and has been for a very long time. It's no surprise to say that Abby is a vampire. Her protector (Richard Jenkins) and she travel from one city to another, committing justified, grisly murders for the sake of Abby's insatiable need for blood. When suspicion arises, they pack and move again. The cycle is endless.
Abby is a vampire in the truest sense--not the bastardized version that the TWILIGHT franchise try to poison our minds with. Abby feeds, and does so ferociously. It is animal-like, in sound and in fury when her hunger takes over. She doesn't age; she has no friends. She doesn't attend school, and most certainly does not sparkle like diamonds in the sunlight. Her life consists of sleeping in covered bathtubs and solving puzzles--a Rubik's cube is what initially brings the two leads together.
LET ME IN begins in a hospital. This is a mistake. Too many films fall prey to the allure of the flashback. We are thrust into the action too soon. A terrifically disfigured man sits in a bed, as a cop's (Elias Koteas) interrogation begins. The cop is called away by a phone call, the man is next seen out the window, a bloody snow angel on the ground below. RIGHT ONE IN did a superior job of meticulously laying out the story. I prefer the slow burn, rather than being immediately immersed in the macabre and being duped as 'Two Weeks Earlier' scrolls onscreen.
The best scenes are the ones with Owen and Abby learning about each other. He introduces her to arcades and secret hideouts. She teaches him to fight back against his tormentors. If the attacks continue, she will help him because, as Abby says, "I'm stronger than you think I am." Smit-McPhee and Moretz carry LET ME IN; without their vehement performances, the film would flounder. Moretz has shown great range the last few years. From a younger sister with knowledge beyond her years (500 DAYS OF SUMMER), to a costumed vigilante (KICK-ASS); LET ME IN is her most difficult role to date. Smit-McPhee gained prominence as 'Boy' in John Hillcoat's underrated apocalyptic drama THE ROAD, taken from the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name. In both capacities his vulnerability seeps from every spoken word.
Unsurprisingly, the sexual content is toned down while the violence is turned up. A common theme in American society. Sex in the States remains taboo subject matter, while bloodshed continues unabashedly. Many scenes are carbon copies from Alfredson's take. Some of the clumsier moments from RIGHT ONE IN are omitted (the cat attack for one), while new injections keep LET ME IN fresh. When Jenkins hides in the back of a car waiting to blitz his next victim, the account is startling.
LET ME IN has prominent performances and a chilling, albeit duplicated narrative. Owen and Abby are new age star-crossed lovers. Not from rival families, but species. We understand where Owen's hopes lay. He is a shell of a human being. With no allies at school, absentee parents; he is looking for a lasting connection. Abby's intentions are more clouded. They realistically have no future together. Her youth is eternal, while he is doomed to age and wither. Are her feelings for Owen genuine, or is he simply another meanings to an end? The question is posed of whether evil exists in the world. The answer is a resounding yes, but perhaps it still has a heart.