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"Let Me In" is a 2010 horror film which was directed by Matt Reeves, who has also directed such films as "The Pallbearer" (1996), "Cloverfield" (2008), and "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" (2014).
Warning: Spoilers will likely be given during this review.
The film is 116 minutes in length and stars Kodi Smit-McPhee ("ParaNorman", "The Road", "The Congress") as Owen, Chloe Grace Moretz ("Hugo", "Kick-Ass 2", "Dark Shadows") as Abby, and Richard Jenkins ("Jack Reacher", "The Cabin in the Woods", "Step Brothers") as The Father.
The plot for the film reads as follows: A bullied young boy befriends a young female vampire who lives in secrecy with her guardian.
There is something to be said for the legacy of Hammer Films from the birth of the company as far back as 1934 to the heyday of the 'Hammer Horror' of the 1960s with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in films such as "Dracula", "Frankenstein Must be Destroyed" and "The Devil Rides Out". The film is a remake of the 2008 Swedish film "Let the Right One In" and received huge critical acclaim from filmgoers around the world. I was not a fan of "Cloverfield" and I must admit I had reservations about this, too, as it also had Matt Reeves at the helm. Is it any good? Let's find out!
The film's opening sequence is set in Los Alamos, New Mexico, in 1983,and shows the emergency services racing through a snowstorm. There is a man strapped in a gurney in an ambulance who is in some distress as he attempts to rid himself of his shackles. Once at the hospital, a detective goes into his room and proceeds to question the man about a murder. He leaves a pen and notepad for the man to write on. There is a scream which comes from the room and as the detective runs into it, he finds the man has jumped out of the window leaving a note which is incorrectly spelled and reads "I'm sory Abby".
The first thing to note is that the film is a little strange and could be construed as quite difficult to follow, but its mood is somewhat clever as it attempts to tell its story of Owen and Abby. The second, and more crucial aspect, is that the CGI is probably a little too much. I would have loved to see the Hammer of old with a no-frills horror film but I guess enhanced graphics is the way to go in this day and age, which is a shame because the fake blood content was a real winner with the Hammer films of old.
I really enjoyed the retro aspect and with the film set in 1983, we get to see arcade games such as "Pac-Man" which was one of my favourites from that era, as well as songs like Culture Club's "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" and Blue Oyster Cult's brilliant "Burnin' for You". But the thing that I warmed to the most was Owen trying to solve a Rubik's Cube. Some people can, most can't, and I have only just recently memorised the moves to speed solve it myself, which is something I am immensely proud of doing even though it is technically cheating! It is easy to set a film in the 1980s but it is often gotten wrong, and "Let Me In" shines through as an example of how to do it right.
There is an almost comedy aspect to The Father, and I am not entirely sure it wasn't intended. He reminds me of Wile E Coyote and his attempts to collect blood to feed his vampire 'daughter', which have disastrous and somewhat humorous consequences. Of course, this is probably Hammer's way of making light of something that is supposed to be chilling and showing the viewer that it is not meant to be serious, but it is definitely an eye-opener to say the least. In contrast, though, the horror is splendidly violent, and something which is great to see in this day and age where the majority of movie studios are playing it safe.
I did feel there could have been more to the film, but I enjoyed the direction that it went in. I do like a film to challenge me, and this has pulled out all the stops to attempt to capture the magic of the 1960s horror era. Each time when I thought it was getting slow, a surprise was thrown at me and at the end of it all I appreciated the pace of the film. I now feel that if it had been rushed, it may not have been as successful. I like a film that keeps me guessing, and this did up to a point. Maybe I did see the ending coming but it was done in such a way that I didn't feel cheated by it.
I felt Aussie actor Kodi Smit-McPhee's portrayal of Owen was a solid one, and he managed to bring an air of something different to the screen. Probably the first thing I thought, though, is that the character resembled the 1980s children's TV character, Pob, a puppet that was operated by Robin Stevens, who has also worked on "Rosie & Jim" and "Teletubbies". Owen is a shy, troubled 12-year-old individual who likes to participate in voyeurism and is intrigued by Abby, a girl who tries to hide her secret from him. Very indifferent from Owen, Abby is a reserved and collect young girl, someone who is more mature than her years show. Chloe Grace Moretz, at the age of 14 when she shot the film, shows she has acting ability and I did enjoy the way she played the role which can't have been easy to do at that age.
What Hammer Productions does here is dish out a healthy dose of classic horror with a good dose of blood to keep the seasoned fan of the genre happy. Would I label it as a straight-out vampire film? No, I don't think so. There's a lot more going on in it, and though the principal aspect of the film is based around Owen's growing friendship with Abby, and I felt the development of everything around them was more important. Without a spine, you have no legs - or that's how I am looking at the film here!
I enjoyed this film a lot, and I would like to hope it is the beginning of the resurrection of Hammer Productions because as I have mentioned before, it's a company I grew up with, and if you did the same, you probably anticipated watching the "Hammer House of Horror" series as a youngster if you was allowed to, but at the same time you were scared witless with it. Yes it's a remake of the Swedish film "Let the Right One In", but I'm not one for foreign films at all. I can definitely recommend "Let Me In" as a true horror film of the 21st century.
What the Critics Say
The Hollywood Reporter: " Key to the remake's ultimate success is the casting of the troubled young leads.Smit-McPhee and Moretz possess the soulful depth and pre-adolescent vulnerability necessary to keep it compellingly real."
Variety: "Matt Reeves hasn't ruined the elegant Swedish vampire story by remaking it. If anything, he's made some improvements, including the addition of a tense action-horror sequence in the middle of the film."
New York Post: " The scariest, creepiest and most elegantly filmed horror movie I've seen in years - it positively drives a stake through the competition."
Portland Oregonian: " The film moves with strange, creepy energy and is populated by characters who delicately walk a line between charm and grotesquerie. It's a treat."
The Globe and Mail: " Less satisfying are the moments when the film concedes to American horror conventions, especially the scuttling vampire effects, which pull us out of the haunted world of these lovely damaged creatures into a place that, while not of this world, feels entirely too familiar."
My rating: 8/10
RELEASED: 2010, Cert. 15
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 115 mins
DIRECTOR: Matt Reeves
PRODUCERS: Tobin Armbrust & six others
SCREENPLAY: Matt Reeves & John Ajvide Lindqvist
MUSIC: Michael Giacchino
Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen
Chloe Grace Moretz as Abby
Dylan Minnette as Kenny
Richard Jenkins as Abby's father
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Owen is lonely boy, bullied at school and unable to relate to his religious mother, who he lives with.
When a young girl (Abby) and her father move into the apartment next door, Owen becomes fascinated with her. The pair form an odd sort of friendship, becoming very close, but there is something strange about Abby - for instance, she is desperately thin, doesn't feel the cold, has never seen a Rubik's Cube before and throws up when Owen gives her some sweets to eat. Also, the police are investigating a string of bloodbath murders in the area, which seem to have coincided with the arrival of Abby and her father.
I do believe that Let Me In is a remake of a Swedish film, but I'm unable to comment on which version reigns supreme. However, and as most people know, I have a problem with films being seized, torn up and re-presented, and I can't off the top of my head think of any remake that has even equalled, let alone superseded its original. In this instance though, my review solely concentrates on this apparent regurgitation, as it is all I've seen and all I have to go by.
Firstly, Let Me In made me feel cold. It is filmed during snowy weather, and I shivered as Owen shyly approached Abby in the playground of the apartment complex where they live, as Abby claims to not feel the cold and she never wears a coat or any other weather-protective garments. Present in the snowy play area is a harsh, yellow light which adds to the chill-factor.
The whole mood of the film, set in the early 1980s, is quite dark and cold, tinged around the edges with a depressive feel....I found this somewhat uncomfortable, but then this isn't supposed to be a happy, heartwarming tale of spreading the love across the universe. I'm not sure if this was done deliberately or it was simply poor directing techniques, but there was a greenish hue to the colour on the film which I found a bit off-putting, simply because it looked amateurish, even it was intended for effect. It could of course be a fault in transferring the film over to DVD.
During the first twenty or so minutes of Let Me In, I found that the auditory features were a bit out of balance. The noises which were supposed to be in the background were far too forward and the music far too loud, almost drowning out much of the speech...but this did improve and sort itself out as the film progressed.
Owen's sense of isolation is put across very sharply, firstly due to living with a mother he couldn't relate to, and secondly because his father lived elsewhere....we never get to see the father in the film, but Owen's mother and Owen himself do have telephone conversations with him. What increases Owen's situation of isolation and loneliness even further, is that at school, a gang of three boys are making his life a complete misery...taunting him severely at every opportunity. Owen appears to be totally friendless, until Abby's arrival.
Let Me In is one of these films that I have mixed feelings about. The overall mood is created perfectly, with Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace Moretz as Owen and Abby respectively acting their roles quite well, and an almost morbid chill-factor atmosphere all but seeped through the screen whilst I was watching, but I did find some stretches a little confusing to the point where my attention was in danger of wandering elsewhere. There is a coldness and detachment about the way the characters relate to and interact with one another, which I don't particularly find reminiscent of the early 1980s...from my own viewpoint, it comes across as more of a 21st century syndrome whereby in general and at large, people appear to be disconnected on a certain level.
The character of Owen I feel was the strongest, and I couldn't help wanting to step in and give those who were bullying him (a thoroughly nasty trio led by a young scumbag called Kenny) the most vicious part of my mind, yet Owen managed to gain a little strength from his friendship with the strange girl Abby.
The music to Let Me In is borderline avant-garde, made up of various keyboard and percussion noises punctuated with occasional bursts of choral voices, aptly befitting the darkly depressive atmosphere of the film, but it was a bit too loud at certain points...occasionally damaging rather than enhancing the grimly miasmic mood present. A couple of times, the score was lightened a bit by the presence of pop music current to the early 1980s, Turning Japanese by The Vapors being one that sticks in my mind.
I found some of the special effects a bit dated despite the film being released only a couple of years ago; also perhaps a tad overdone at certain points, and I'd have preferred to see the supernatural aspects where the special effects were used, presented far more naturally, as to me that would have increased the fear factor. For me, films which overdo the special effects can lose their credibility, and Let Me In is one of them.
Let Me In isn't a film that I'm planning to see again at any time in the future, as it is of the 'once is enough' variety, but the parts which I did enjoy, if you glue them together, amount to at least half. I guess, whilst watching, I was intrigued more than anything, but I did feel a sense of remoteness and detachment from both within myself and from the storyline, simply because of the way the interaction between the main characters and the situation are presented. As the closing credits rolled, I felt as if I'd sat down to a huge meal, but left the table still feeling hungry. It wouldn't be right to say that I disliked the film entirely, but I do feel parts of it could have been put across better. Perhaps I should watch the Swedish original?
At the time of writing, Let Me In can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £2.85 to £8.99
Used: from 31p to £8.85
Some items on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
About the film
Let Me In is a 2010 romantic horror film that was based on the Swedish film Let The Right One In and the book of the same name. The film has a rating of 15 due to violence and language and it has a run time of 116 minutes.
Twelve year old Owen is a loner. He has no friends, gets bullied at school and has to put up with his divorced mother and the nightly phone calls from his father. He doesn't have much of a life apart from looking out of his window with a telescope. One night, he spots a young girl walking in the snow with no shoes on, entering the apartment building with an older man which he instantly assumes is her father. Upon meeting the young girl, Abby, Owen can see that she is just like him - shy, lonely and awkward. Although the two strike up a strange friendship, Owen has no idea that Abby is a child vampire, constantly stuck at twelve years old, needing blood every single night.
When people start dying, Abby's 'father' in particular, a policeman is determined to find out what is going on but this could mean disaster for Abby and her lifestyle.
Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen
Chloë Grace Moretz as Abby
Richard Jenkins as "The Father"
Cara Buono as Owen's mother
Elias Koteas as "The Policeman"
Sasha Barrese as Virginia
Dylan Minnette as Kenny
Ritchie Coster as Mr. Zoric
Jimmy Pinchak as Mark
What I thought
Let Me In wasn't a film I was too bothered about watching due to it being an American version of something else. However, my boyfriend bought me it after liking it himself. We have pretty similar taste in films so I was willing to give it a shot.
As the film began to get going (after the weird opening) it quickly started to remind me of a really creepy version of About A Boy, mainly due to one of the main characters. Owen is a very unfortunate looking 12 year old boy who is a complete loner. The reason for comparing this with About A Boy is because Owen, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee looks so much like Nicholas Hoult did in that film. It soon becomes apparent that not only is Owen a loner but also gets bullied badly at school. I couldn't help but to feel sorry for Owen immediately.
Abby, the other main characters, is mentioned in the opening scenes but you don't get to find out who she is until she moves into the same apartment building, next door in fact, to Owen. Most people will know Chloë Moretz, who plays Abby, for her role in Kick Ass. In comparison, these two roles are completely different. Abby is shy and extremely reserved, not really saying much to begin with and keeping very much to herself. While Owen, although not having any friends, tries to talk to her a lot, she doesn't respond well to begin with. Mortez plays Abby extremely well and while it is different to the role she is best known for now, she is still incredible. It's quite hard to think of her as being so young.
Both characters begin to grow and develop as soon as they meet each other, yet still staying true to who they are. Neither character changes an awful lot but it is more about the impact they have on each other. Owen and Abby are extremely curious about each other and getting to know each other was one thing about the film I really loved. Their friendship is awkward and strange but then what else could it ever have been when one of them is a child vampire? Still, the story of their friendship is heart-warming and different.
After being told that this was not really a horror, and it isn't, I wasn't expecting to be scared or jump at all. I was both at times. There were a couple of scenes that I was not expecting and these made me jump a hell of a lot but as there weren't that many like this, it made them scarier and the shock factor a lot higher than if they had been used more often. I was also not expecting for me to get quite emotional at this film - so much so that I cried a little bit. Let Me In made me feel a range of emotions that I just wasn't prepared for with a horror film but that is not a bad thing. It's great when a film can really surprise you and not be what you think it will.
While the story and acting were great, there were some things that bugged me. Mostly, the visuals were fantastic. As this film is set in the '80s, everything looks extremely dated and it felt very authentic. However, when Abby shows that she is a vampire is where things weren't that great. Basic effects were done quite well, giving Abby scary white eyes and seeing blood all around her mouth. Really, it was when Abby began to move like a vampire that I had problems. There are a few scenes of Abby scaling buildings or climbing trees at enhanced speed but these scenes just looked fake. I think they either could have been shot a lot better or just done differently to make a better vampire out of Abby.
While I haven't seen the original film yet or read the book (which I do have), I am looking forward to seeing what the differences are and which I like more. I wasn't expecting to like this film as much as I did at all.