I think “Let Me In” will be deemed as a respectable companion piece to the infinitely superior “Let The Right One In” if only because Matt Reeves directs this version with his eye on convention more than edge. The original was already so gruesome and complex and filled with subtext and undertones that Reeves opts instead for simple and superficial and it will rely on the audiences preference if they want a movie about a vampire and a boy falling in love, or if they want a story about a boy and a girl falling in love, one of whom mutilates people and drinks their blood.
“Let Me In” is not the wash out I originally predicted it would be, but I’m not going to call it a masterpiece either. It barely warrants a re-watch, when all is said and done. At the end of the day it’s just there, it’s a remake that’s wholly unnecessary that does have its advantages and strives to at least live up to the original. Reeve’s direction is quite startling in its way of painting this snowy New Mexican land as something of a bleak world beyond our own. The world is illuminated only by natural light and when the darkness comes it slowly transforms in to a world where the grisly and disgusting can take its form. This is a time of night where Abby comes out of her darkness to loom and wait around for her meal. And in this darkness she meets someone perpetually stuck in a spiral of misery and pain and loneliness and by circumstances, the two form a bond that keeps them closely and affectionate, forming a romance that dares to be much more than holding hands and gazes.
Abby is a monster with an angelic face, a true stain on anyone she comes across, and somehow she manages to tame this petulant, merciless monster when she meets Owen, a boy she may be in love with or maybe just has a use for him he’s not fully aware of. Even in the finale where the two are bonded, it’s not clear if Abby will keep him as a lover, or if she’ll just use him as much as possible and throw him away when his wide eyed view of love has deteriorated in to the grim realization that she is pure unbridled evil and nothing more than that. Reeves really succeeds in building this world in to a hopeless land of sadness and shame where kids are evil, and adults hide their woes behind closed doors.
The highlight of “Let Me In” are the riveting performances, and Reeves excels by casting Chloe Moretz and Codi-Smit McPhee, two truly gifted and incredible child actors both of whom have a startling chemistry and sexual tension that’s hidden behind childlike bashfulness and discretion. Moretz in particular is fantastic as Abby, a young girl who is at first unassuming and docile, but is really just black to the pit of her core with zero definition of morality or restraint. Reeves thankfully keeps her true demonic form a secret for us preferring to focus on her childish glare but when unleashed she is a horrible demonic entity, one unwilling to forgive or take pity on. This is demonstrated in the fierce and intense re-working of the finale by the pool, one that’s too flashy for my taste, but still effective. Reeves centers his film around the children and emphasizes the relationships of the kids among the adults and in that regard it works and is quite compelling in instances.
While many welcomed a new vision of “Let the Right One In,” the only reason why this film was even open for discussion as a remake was because the vampire market is hot in the new decade, and in spite of it flopping at the box-office, it’s surely a film that will appeal to Twilight fans. As a remake and reworking of the original film, it’s utterly unnecessary and pretty much a by the numbers copy. Instead though Reeves rethinks the entire story eliminated anything taboo and completely relies on complete convention to tell a story. Instead of a boy and a vampire with a sex that ambiguous, we instead get just a boy and girl love story. Rather than a cold tundra in a foreign land we get a cold tundra in New Mexico set in the eighties. By the way the movie makes is painstakingly clear that “Let Me In” is set in the eighties, and you must remember that for some reason. Now and Laters, black and white TV, and Ms. Pacman make an appearance for nothing else than to add an artsy gloss that’s not completely necessary.
Meanwhile all themes of incest, pedophilia, homosexuality and the like are completely dropped in favor of a generational gap love story of a boy and a vampire girl who may or may not be old enough to be his great great grandmother. And Elias Koteas is added as a cop who is also on the hunt for the killer that is Abby’s caretaker and provider and sees first hand the unusual circumstances before his eyes, and little else. There’s not a real motivation for his character beyond pushing Abby and Owen closer together to fit the time constraints. Meanwhile the sub-plot with the bullies is expanded upon and Reeves makes the sad mistake of creating more empathic bullies, one of whom is a complete and absolute monster who is a victim of bullying himself. Thus when the big finale rolls around with blood and body parts, we feel sadness for him, but since there’s no resolution to his storyline, we’re never sure why. We just have to feel bad for him because Reeves makes it painfully clear that head bully is just a bigger version of Owen who has his own menace he can’t escape.
Subtlety is obviously not what Reeve strives for as the finale, while absolutely fierce, throws in your face violence and sound effects that force down the audiences throats that something horrible is happening off screen, you can tell by the severed head that just float in to the screen. Booga! There’s no real poetry or grace as the predecessor possessed, and that’s why it’s not a complete success from Europe to America. Not at all the masterpiece many easy to please viewers have deemed it as, “Let Me In” is a respectable time waster, a movie that is pointless in its purpose and goal and strives to maintain its creativity and horror edge while also appealing to “Twilight” fans in the process. The symbolism and undertones are nowhere to be found, but the highlights are the performances, and the atmosphere, both of which this film brings in droves.