“Just so you know, we can’t be friends.”
The Scoop: 2010 R, directed by Matt Reeves and starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Grace Moretz and Elias Koteas.
Tagline: She will keep you safe. She will keep you close. She will keep you forever.
Summary Capsule: Woebegone moppet finds out his new buddy is a bloodsucking fiend in a touching horror story. Just because something’s an American remake doesn’t mean it’s bad.
Louise’s rating: 5 out 5 Childhood Friends I Later Realized Were Monsters
Louise’s review: I’ve rated this 5 out of 5 because I think it’s a superior ‘chiller’ and I think that’s pretty high praise considering that I don’t normally go for this sort of movie. I freely admit that I’m much more of a musical-numbers-and-historical-characters-not-to-mention-someone-to-fancy kind of woman, but I found Let Me In utterly enthralling and I’m very glad I saw it.
Meet Owen, who is having the worst winter of his life. Since his parents’ divorce, his mother has become overprotective and increasingly dependent on alcohol, while he can barely get his father on the phone. He is being bullied by three of the nastiest middle school jerks I have ever wanted to crush from the vantage point of my adulthood.
Finally, his new friend, a girl called Abby who has recently moved into his block, is the cause (notice I don’t say she’s the perpetrator) of all the mysterious murders that have been happening around town lately. Abby is a vampire, so not actually a pre-teen girl at all. As Owen and Abby become closer in a little dreamworld of their own, a good cop with a list of victims is drawing ever closer. Yes, peeps, in Let Me In, we don’t know who to root for. And I think it’s excellent.
Lots of people have enjoyed the novel Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist and the subsequent Swedish-language film adaptation, including our own Justin and Kyle. They’ve done something very interesting for vampire stories by abandoning the ‘adult romance’ interpretation we’ve seen so much of and taking another look at some other possibilities of the legend: the character of the child vampire, Claudia from Interview with the Vampire, searching for another child as a soulmate, combined with the ‘suburban horror’ genre last seen in Ginger Snaps, i.e. genuinely frightening precisely because it’s set in a rather drab and ordinary residential landscape.
An English-language version was perhaps inevitable, and while American remakes are not often regarded as equal to their source material, I’m happy to say that everything I remember as important in the novel is included here. From what I’ve read, it removes some of the humour and lightness of the Swedish film and concentrates on elegant eerieness. Abby and Owen’s relationship is truly delightful in its unorthodox, tragic, disturbing simplicity – she is a shy abused-type (no shoes and raised voices in her apartment late at night), who flips into an actual mad-animal-monster when hungry or threatened, and he is the one who realizes that he doesn’t care, because she takes away his loneliness. For Owen, Abby’s need to drink blood from other living people is less important than the fact that she will stick up for him against those who blight his life. Abby, for her part, just wants to talk to someone her own age.
Performances here are all good. While the young (and long-named) actors have to carry the film, I was also impressed with Elias Koteas as the policeman and Richard Jenkins as Abby’s ‘father’/minder (forty years ago he was probably a lonely boy who got talking to a shy new girl).
I’m finding it hard to talk extensively about Let Me In (I took a page of notes when I watched it, but theyre really not helping in this case) so I’ll repeat what I said at the beginning. I found it… enthralling… not only as a story of friendship but as a mystery. Will the authorities catch up with Abby? Will Owen escape the bullies, in a sort of nightmare version of a John Hughes classic? What happens if you don’t let a vampire in? Why is it the ’80s? So, if you like your vampires blue and grey and skinny, rather than swathed in a decadent fabric with an excess of hair (Gary Oldman, Tom Cruise, move along!), find yourself a copy. It’s even in English, if that helps (!).
- We never see the face of Owen’s mother.
If you enjoyed this movie, try:
- Let The Right One In
- Pan’s Labyrinth