THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"LET ME IN"
Chloe Grace Moretz is a young vampire tired of sucking blood in the excellent Let Me In.
Let Me In is a great example of how to do a remake right, and that's because it genuinely understands the tone of its original source material. Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) wisely doesn't try to reinvent the excellent 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In, nor does he simply do a shot-for-shot remake. Instead, he helps his movie find its own footing while remaining faithful to the things that made the earlier film beloved by those who saw it. Of course, Let the Right One In wasn't very widely released in this country, so what I'm saying to newcomers is that if you try either version, or both, you're going to get a horror movie as disturbing as it is artful and humane.
Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) plays Owen, an isolated 12 year-old boy who is largely ignored by his single mother and viciously bullied by peers at school. He spends his free time hanging out in the snowy courtyard of his apartment complex, which is where he meets Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz of Kick-Ass), the new girl in the building. They gradually strike up a friendship, but Owen doesn't know her secret: Abby is actually a vampire whose "father" (Richard Jenkins) may know something about a string of local murders. Elias Koteas also stars as a cop investigating those murders.
That's all I'm going to say about the plot, except to indicate that Abby and Owen grow quite close, and having someone significant in his life inspires the boy to develop a few much-needed coping skills.
Let the Right One In happened to be released around the same time as another human/vampire love story, a little picture known as Twilight. A common joke on the internet was that one film was for girls and the other was for much, much cooler people, i.e. horror fans. Truth be told, the two have little in common besides the general premise of a fragile person growing connected to a bloodsucker. The story - in both the original and this remake - is not a romance so much as a coming-of-age tale in which two children grow from their friendship. The boy faces the concept of mortality, in the process realizing that he has to protect himself from those who seek to hurt him, while the girl gets the long-desired chance to feel like a normal kid.
There is some grisly, ghastly stuff in Let Me In (although it alters one of the original's most notorious scenes in favor of something a little less outrageous). When Abby needs to feed, it ain't pretty. Several characters meet brutal ends, in ways you donít see coming. Reeves also stages what has to be one of the most harrowing and realistic car crashes in cinematic history. If you like horror, you'll appreciate the originality this story possesses. It's quite different from what you normally see in movies about vampires.
At the same time, the picture is oddly beautiful due to the relationship between Owen and Abby. He's a boy with no friends and lots of tormentors; she's a girl who has heretofore avoided connection because of her secret. As they get to know one another, defenses are dropped. They reveal themselves to be scared children, struggling in their own ways to find companionship, comfort, or sympathy. A touching bond grows between them that draws you in, in ways that most so-called "romantic" movies do not. The goriness of the town murders accentuates the purity of their friendship. That, for me, is what makes both versions of the story so haunting.
To pull this off, you absolutely need the right actors. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace Moretz are preternaturally gifted young stars, capable of mining emotional depths that most kids their age couldn't even fathom. You sense every ounce of Owen's loneliness, as well as his growing fulfillment when he meets kindred spirit Abby. I'd like to say more about Richard Jenkins, but I don't want to reveal any of the film's twists. His soulful eyes and measured demeanor are put to very good - almost ironic - use. By casting Jenkins, Let Me In again finds something human amid gruesome horror.
Reeves retains the quiet, sullen ambiance of the original. He also maintains the use of violence as punctuation, as a way to underline what's happening between Abby and Owen. There are no generic Hollywood scare beats to be found here, no cheap thrills. Every act of violence has some sort of emotional tie to the characters. I was very unexpectedly moved when I saw Let the Right One In, and even though I essentially already knew the story, I was equally moved by Let Me In. Beautifully shot, sensitively directed, and elegantly scripted, it is a horror movie with the kind of substance and depth that 99% of genre fare lacks. It lingers in your mind and your heart.
( 1/2 out of four)
Let Me In is rated R for strong bloody horror violence, language and a brief sexual situation. The running time is 1 hour and 54 minutes.