film review: Let Me In

Let Me In offers an unusual twist on the usual vampire tale. It’s gripping and unusual—unless you happen to have seen the Swedish film that inspired it, Let the Right One In, based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist. If you did catch that striking Swedish import two years ago, there isn’t much point to seeing the remake. Writer-director Matt Reeves, who made his reputation with Cloverfield, has wisely followed the original and made only a handful of (mostly inventive) deviations. I admire both his fidelity and his restraint.

If you haven’t seen Let the Right One In, or don’t tend to watch foreign-language films with subtitles, then I wholeheartedly recommend the remake. I usually shy away from—

—bloody films, but this one presents its moments of horror in the context of a provocative story with highly unusual characters.

Kodi Smit-McPhee, who made a vivid impression as Viggo Mortensen’s son in The Road, scores again in a beautifully modulated performance as a lonely boy, on the verge of puberty, who’s living with his mother in an apartment complex in snowy Los Alamos, New Mexico. His parents have separated, and his unhappiness is magnified by the fact that he’s been targeted by a school bully. One night, in the courtyard outside his apartment, he meets his new neighbor, a sullen, mysterious 12-year-old girl who tells him she can’t be his friend. Before long she goes back on her word because it turns out that she’s lonely, too. The big difference is that she’s a vampire who needs fresh blood to survive.

The “girl” is played, with great feeling, by Chloë Grace Moretz, from Kick-Ass, whose sensitivity and expressive face match her youthful costar’s. They are supported by such fine actors as Richard Jenkins and Elias Koteas; in fact, every character rings true, down to the most incidental.

With an inventive and properly moody score by Michael Giacchino, Let Me In dares to take its time. In a way I wish I hadn’t seen the Swedish movie, because it would have been fun to experience this film without knowing all of its dramatic beats and surprises. But I can still appreciate the skill with which it’s been made—and applaud that rare Hollywood remake of a foreign film that can stand alongside the original.

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July 2019
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