In Los Alamos, New Mexico, during the winter of 1983, a bullied young boy befriends a 12-year-old girl who lives in secrecy with her father in the apartment next door. Meanwhile, the local police investigate a series of brutal murders.
Allow me to begin this piece with the following disclaimer. I am aware that this movie is the American remake of the beloved Swedish original – LET THE RIGHT ONE IN directed by Tomas Alfredson in 2008. However, as I haven’t yet seen the original, I have no preconceptions to cloud my judgement. I will do a comparison of the two soon, but as far as this review is concerned; LET ME IN is an entity unto itself.
12 year-old Owen lives in a small block of cheap apartments. His parents are going through divorce proceedings. His mother is distant and preoccupied, his father is almost wholly absent from his life apart from the occasional telephone call. Owen is almost entirely on his own. So when new neighbours move in, he is fascinated to see one of them is a dishevelled girl, who looks to be his age. From their first meeting, she makes it clear that she is very different from other children.
Owen’s life is bleak. He is also being bullied at school. Consequently he spends much of his time alone in a kind of self-protective dream. He is drawn towards the girl next door because she seems even more disconnected from school and family life than he is.
Although LET ME IN has the elements of a horror story, with a number of slayings and a body count, it probably isn’t the sort of movie that hardcore horror fans would seek out. The death and gore are a necessary part of the movie’s structure, but it relies more on the suspense generated by its mysteries. The audience is left to ponder as Owen does: What is happening with the new family next door? Who are they? What is their secret?
At its bloody heart, LET ME IN is a blighted love story in a frozen landscape. We discover the truth about the girl next-door, detail-by-detail, as Owen does. These two are unaware of themselves. Owen is moving into puberty, but half-consciously seeks some affection or care from another. Abby, the neighbour girl, is motivated by her deadly animal instincts – but does this make her evil?
CLOVERFIELD (2008) director Matt Reeves has created a chilling world for the alienated Owen to drift through. Audiences will practically feel the cold seeping in as the events unfold. Reeves has an impressively firm grip on all the elements of this tale.
Australian actor Kodi Smit-McPhee, so memorable in ROMULUS MY FATHER (2007) and THE ROAD (2009) turns in another fine performance here in the role of Owen. Chloe Moretz as Abby has another intense and scary character to place alongside her Hitgirl from KICKASS (2009). Veteran character actor Richard Jenkins (EAT PRAY LOVE, THE VISITOR) demonstrates none of his trademark offbeat charm as Abby’s father. It’s an unusual role for him, but pivotal in terms of the film.
If I had a quibble, it is the relative under use of Elias Koteas in the role of the questing policeman. Like Jenkins, he has a long career in character parts and when he is given more to do, usually acquits himself admirably.
LET ME IN is an engaging and intelligent bloody-spattered movie that will appeal to many, like me, who haven’t seen the original. It runs for 115 minutes and is released in Australia on Thursday 14th October, 2010. Rating 4/5.