Movie Review: Let Me In (2010)

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Kodi Smit-McPhee in Let Me In
Photo: Overture Films

NOTE: This review was originally published on September 11, 2010 after I screened Let Me In at the Toronto International Film Festival.

It’s not necessarily fair, but when a film clearly “copies” more than “remakes” the original film, a comparison is only apt. In the case of Let Me In, it is virtually a scene-for-scene clone of Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In rather than a new adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel, offering hardly anything new outside of grislier kills and a few different variations.

It seems the idea of an American remake of a foreign film holds true as ramping up the violence and figuring out ways to punch the audience in the chest before focusing on the story is what’s important. The impression I got from what’s presented here is the filmmakers think American audiences won’t be willing to stick with the relatively slow-paced narrative unless they’re given something meaty to chew on every now and then. As someone who liked the original but isn’t an overwhelming supporter, I was at least able to recognize the subtlety of Let the Right One In as one of its high points. Let Me In is hardly subtle, but it is rather boring.

The film centers on Abby (Kick-Ass‘s Chloe Moretz), a mysterious newcomer to a small New Mexico town where she meets Owen (The Road‘s Kodi Smit-McPhee), a bullied 12-year-old whose need for a friend couldn’t be greater. Initially Abby is reluctant to start any kind of friendship, but gradually a bond is formed. However, while the friendship between the two begins to blossom, it’s a friendship I never quite found to be believable.

The connection Abby and Owen find is in their shared loneliness, him as an outcast at school and her as a vampire that can’t enjoy the same luxuries regular humans do. In Let Me In this aspect is glossed over and almost non-existent. Abby appears incredibly independent and this comes as a result of writer-director Matt Reeves dramatically underusing her guardian played by Richard Jenkins.

Reeves, however, does get solid performances out of both Moretz and Smit-McPhee. Moretz’s performance, though, is marred by Reeves’s fumbling of her character and the film’s violent death scenes, one of which is drenched in so much blood and bone-crunching sound effects I’d love to ask him just how exactly he saw the film benefiting. Worst of all, only a few seconds before this happens the image of a peacefully sleeping Abby is so well constructed the fact Reeves chose this moment for his most violent scene is particularly upsetting.

To that effect, Let Me In is technically proficient. Owen’s parents are hardly a part of his life as they’re going through a divorce and Reeves amplifies this fact not by hammering it home with dialogue, but by being careful to never show his mother’s face. It’s a move that will likely go unnoticed by many, but that’s only because it’s so well done. Additionally, a car crash scene midway through the film is highly inventive. Unfortunately, when a car crash is your film’s high point and your film isn’t Days of Thunder there’s a bit of a problem.

Having seen the original, I can honestly tell you this film adds nothing new other than increased bloodshed. Scenes you may have loved from Tomas Alfredson’s film are mishandled here in such a way they don’t come close to sharing the same impact. The performances of the two lead child actors are well done, but in the end I just didn’t believe their relationship.

Perhaps those that have yet to see the original 2008 Swedish film will find enjoyment here. I’d even argue those that have seen it will be at an advantage as they’ll be able to fill in a few emotional gaps where Reeves misses out. However, if you’re in the latter camp it’s probably just as well if you skipped this one altogether. You’ve already seen it.

GRADE: C