With Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas, Cara Buono. Directed by Matt Reeves. Rated R for strong bloody horror violence, language and a brief sexual situation. 115 minutes.
One of the most unexpected and amazing films of 2008 was “Let The Right One In,” a vampire movie from Sweden that was intelligent and moving as well as frequently shocking. However, getting people to watch a movie with subtitles is often an uphill battle. That’s why a remake of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” is in the works even as the third film in the Swedish trilogy is on the verge of American release. And that’s why LET ME IN was made – to reach an audience that would never give a second thought to seeing the original.
Give credit where it’s due: filmmaker Matt Reeves – who made his name with “Cloverfield” – has crafted an incredibly faithful remake. If you didn’t see the original, you’re in for a real treat, one that captures what made the 2008 film so good. However, if you have seen the original, you’ll watch this one impressed with its fidelity to its source, note the minor changes that were made, and be left with the sense that you’ve already seen it.
The story involves 12-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who lives with his divorced mother and is preyed upon by his school’s bullies. One evening he meets his new neighbor, a strange girl who looks his age named Abby (Chloe Moretz). Abby doesn’t appear during the day and the man who seems to be her father (Richard Jenkins) has a much stranger relationship with her, including collecting blood. The growing friendship between Owen and Abby is at the core of the story, as they each find a loyal defender in the other.
The two kids are great, and a big part of the reason the film works so well. They both come across as troubled ‘tweens, with the details of their problems almost incidental. Their future together may be problematic for a number of reasons hinted at in the movie, but for the moment, they need each other. In both films, it is our sympathy for two kids that is essential to our continued interest.
Nearly all of the great shock effects from the original are here as well, including the answer to the question of what happens to a vampire who enters a home uninvited and a violent and chilling climax that loses notihng for having taken place mostly off-camera. The chief change is that the film reduces the gaggle of drinking buddies in the original to a single couple here.
“Let Me In” will seem a revelation to viewers who missed the limited release of the Swedish original. In striving so hard and so well to maintain what made the film worth seeing in the first place, it is a most welcome entry in what has been a mostly dismal year at the movies.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.