When it comes to films like Let Me In, the most recent adaptation to the already adapted to film novel Let the Right One In, the viewing audience seems to fit into two camps. On one side of no man’s land reside the purists, those who think that the Americanization of foreign films is a waste, egocentric, and just plain stupid. On the other side are those that think there is room enough for any film that can bring something new to the table. I am one of the latter (though technically it is by default in this case since I have neither seen the original nor read the book), but no matter the side you fall on I hope you are willing to see what this film has to offer.
For those of you who don’t know Let Me In is yet another vampire story. But check your groans at the door. Instead of the romanticized idea of beautiful creatures or the brutality of a mass of soulless beings, Let Me In approaches this creature feature as realistically as possible by blending the story of a visually young vampire with her new neighbor, a young boy who is bullied at school and finds friendship with his equally lonely neighbor. Apparently it is actually hard to live as a vampire. Who knew?
The mythology of the vampire lore works its way into this film, but it does not take front and center in a glorified way. Instead what takes precedence is the friendship between these two. In a way it is rather creepy considering the actual age difference, but having the façade of a child as a vampire adds a strong layer of vulnerability and innocence to this beastly creature, creating a somewhat endearing relationship. Chloe Moretz plays Abby, and though it is far from perfect she is able to present this dichotomy, slipping in and out of the persona of a child who has been guarded from the world that has changed around her. At times it was easy to forget the aged character in which she plays, but then a hint of a matured sense of understanding would cross her face that would serve as a reminder. Kodi Smit-McPhee is also able to present the isolation of his character and the desperation in which he has towards gaining a friend, showing a different form of vulnerability than Moretz. Though it does bring up memories of his character in The Road, he still does a great job here.
As with the dichotomy of Moretz’s acting, this film also sets up a rather interesting tonal shift as it blends different genres together. On the one hand we have the awkwardly sweet relationship between the two children, as well as that between Moretz and Richard Jenkins’ character, while on the other hand hints of horror work its way in. Moretz’s youth washes away the dangerous nature of her character, so when the creature behind the mask finds its way to the surface it is drastically off-putting. Though I would have preferred if they had stuck to just her simple animalistic digression and actions off screen instead of the actual visuals of other superhuman powers, such as scaling buildings in a Gollum-like, Descent cave creature fashion, but the idea behind it still resonates.
With that said the aspect that is actually more terrifying is what Jenkins’ character must go through in order to help Abby survive. At the start of the film it is not clear as to why he is willing to become a monster for her in order to keep her from being the monster she is in part, and in all honesty I half expected him to throw in the towel. But instead he begrudgingly lives as a murderer for her, kidnapping and draining people of the town so that she won’t have to kill for herself. As disturbing as it is, it somehow manages to be sweet.
Though I am not in a position to say whether or not Let Me In brings something new to create a strong difference between it and Let the Right One In, the acting and tone of the film give it enough for me to feel comfortable recommending a viewing to members of both camps.
Final Grade: B