If you are the least bit interested in foreign cinema and have not seen Let the Right One In, Swedish director Tomas Alfredson’s critically acclaimed vampire film, then go and buy it right now, then watch it, and then watch it again. Arguably the best film of 2008 and certainly one of the best vampire movies of all time, it is a terrific film that just has to be watched. However, shameful as it is if you haven’t seen it, out now to watch at your local world of cine is your get out of jail free card: Let Me In. The dark yet touching story of lonely 12 year old Owen; bullied at school and struggling to come to terms with his parent’s divorce, he forges a dangerous friendship with his new neighbour Abby who, despite appearing to be a normal 12 year old girl, begins to have an increasingly bloody effect on the local community.
Written and directed by Matt Reeves, the man who brought you the disappointing and headache inducing Cloverfield, Let Me In is based on both the screenplay of Let the Right One In and also on the 2004 novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lingqvist. Initially, upon hearing that Reeves would be overseeing such a prompt remake, my heart well and truly sank. I can remember thinking that I wanted to see an American remake of Let the Right One In about as much as I wanted to see a Swedish remake of The Godfather. Especially after having recently bore witness to the woeful Quarantine, the Hollywood remake of the truly terrifically terrifying Spanish zombie horror REC. But (and this is perhaps the biggest film related ‘but’ of 2010) during the 2 hour screening, the shamefully unnecessary film that I was expecting never materialised.
As it turns out, Let Me In is in fact extremely good, with Reeves having more than acquitted himself with both his screenplay and his direction. The characters, locations and events of the original are almost perfectly transferred from wintery Stockholm to wintery New Mexico. At no point is any major plot strand or character arc changed, and at the same time scenes are never recreated exactly shot for shot. I would even go so far as to say that in some respects it surpasses the original. Most evident in a superbly executed car crash scene, shot entirely from the back seat. This also being an example of the film’s fantastic effort to maintain the spirit of the original through it’s famed use of long lasting wide-angle master shots. But essentially the fact that Let Me In is an adaptation of a book and a screenplay, not a film, is the key to its success as an extremely watchable adult film about children.
Perhaps one of the biggest credits to the film’s triumph is something with a decidedly British connection, that being that Let Me In heralds the welcome return of British horror legends Hammer Films. The usual trademarks of Hammer are evident throughout, with the amount of gore, shocks and (very briefly) nude shots upped from the original. Although I’d be quick to add that none are ever used to excess and are by no means a detriment to the film’s quality.
With regards to acting, Let Me In boasts two incredible performances from its two young leads. As troubled and lonesome Owen, Kodi Smit-McPhee displays an ability beyond his years to deal with difficult characterisation and some very long and intense scenes that often contain no dialogue at all. And as the deadly tween vampire Abby, Chloe Moretz wonderfully portrays both a forlornness and vulnerability that drives Abby’s devotion to Owen, while also seriously turning on the evilness when her vampiric tendencies take over. Excellent support is given to the two youngsters by the ever-consistent Richard Jenkins, who plays Abby’s grizzled and weary ‘father’.
There will inevitably be devotees of Let the Right One In that will describe Let Me In as unnecessary, pointless and possibly even disrespectful. But I urge any fan of the original to approach Let Me In with an open mind. For fans of horror, this is far better than any film about invisible house bound demons or ingenious serial killers that died four films ago. If anything, it’s a terrific vampire film-shaped stick with which to beat Twilight, with this film’s central relationship being far more interesting, intense and even more plausible, if that’s possible, than the Edward – Bella – Jacob saga. For anyone that is not a fan of horror please don’t be put off, this is not a film that deliberately jolts you with loud and sudden bangs. And for anyone that has never seen or heard of the original don’t worry about having to seek it out before you see Let Me In, just go to the cinema and enjoy one of the year’s best films.