LET ME IN is the greatest vampire movie I have ever seen. There, I’ve said it! What’s more, all you Team Jacob, Team Douchebag, etc. fans, if you want to see a vampire film with real drama, emotion, and relationships you can actually give a shit about, do yourselves a favor and see LET ME IN and skip all that TWILIGHT crap. Matt Reeves (CLOVERFIELD and rumored to be up for helming SUPERMAN), the director of LET ME IN, has moved another step closer to proving that he has real directing talent. My enthusiasm for this movie is all the more surprising given how prepared I was to hate it. LET ME IN is an American remake of the widely acclaimed Swedish film, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, which was theatrically released in 2008. When it was announced that an American remake was going to be made of the movie, movie fans let out a collective groan. The Swedish film came out only 2 years ago and it is still considered to be, by far, one of the greatest horror films ever made by both fans and critics. So why would anyone want to remake it? Simple. American studios figured that if the original was so well received, then it must have a huge potential to make a lot of money. However, the studios also recognize that their audiences don’t like to read subtitles so the only way to present the movie to them is to remake it. I didn’t share the sentiment of most fans to not remake LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. Films have been successfully remade in the past (THE FLY, CASINO ROYALE, THE THING, BEN-HUR, and CAPE FEAR) so its not as if it can’t be done. The problem is that the vast majority of remakes do not succeed and for that I had little hope that a retelling of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN would work. Surprisingly and fortunately, I was in for a big surprise.

LET ME IN is about a lonely 12-year old boy named Owen (THE ROAD’S Kodi Smit-McPhee) who lives with his recently divorced mom (Cara Buono) in Los Alamos, New Mexico. One night he sees an older man (Richard Jenkins) and a young girl named Abby (Chloe Moretz) who looks about his age move into the apartment next door. Owen eventually meets Abby while hanging out at the playground inside his apartment complex. The two soon become friends, but little does Owen know that Abby and her “dad” are vampires. Meanwhile, Owen has to deal with a bunch of bullies at school who continually pick on him through increasingly cruel ways. At the same time, unexplained murders begin to occur in the town, whose investigations are led by a persistent detective (Elias Koteas).

There are no plot twists in LET ME IN unless you count the boy’s discovery that the girl is a vampire as being one. Some will say that the story moves along too slowly, but I felt the pacing of the movie was just right. Matt Reeves takes his time for the story to unfold and I think it takes a very disciplined and confident filmmaker to allow a story and its characters to settle in with the audience rather than try and cram every minute with something new or exciting. Reeves trusts the original material and wisely allows it to drive the film. Although LET ME IN is a vampire story, it is not a conventional vampire story. It doesn’t present us with beautiful looking actors who live cool, gothic lifestyles and drink blood like they’re performing sex. The vampires here do not enjoy drinking blood and they crave it out of a physical necessity rather than desire. The packrat, refugee apartment lifestyle that Abby and her “dad” live is far from glamorous and overall, they lead lives that makes you wonder whether killing yourself would be a preferable arrangement. The realistic tone Reeves takes is a welcome approach to the way-too- familiar and overdone vampire genre. LET ME IN is also a love story, but like its other elements, it is not a conventional love story. The romance between Owen and Abby is an innocent one (its Owen’s first) that is unlike the trashy romance sex symbol garbage that permeates the TWILIGHT films. Here, you not only buy the attraction between these characters, but your attachment and identification with their relationship is heightened by the doomed nature of their relationship. You feel the precariousness of their situation and because of that, the love story in LET ME IN feels much more real than anything that’s contained in TWILIGHT.

The story is set in 1983 and this is probably the first time I have seen a movie set in the 80s that did NOT make me feel nostalgic for that time period. Although the portrayal of the period did not make me long for reliving the 80s, I was impressed by Reeves’ meticulous attention to the details of the period (80s music, the clothing, hair cuts, dialogue, the vehicles, the contents playing on TV and the radio, etc.). Nothing seems to have escaped his attention and, unlike most films that take place in the 80s, I actually felt transported to that time period. The New Mexico town the story is set in is cold, drab, and unwelcoming. There is a pervading sense of isolation throughout the film that seems to place the town away from everything else and, specifically, separates Owen and Abby from the rest of society. It is the perfect sort of place for a couple of vampires to hide out from society.

This may sound strange to many of you, but LET ME IN reminded me a bit of E.T. In both films you have a somewhat misunderstood child who finds an unlikely friend in an otherworldly/strange creature (a vampire, an alien being). A close friendship is formed between the child and the creature, but its one that, under the circumstances (the vampire will be found by the police, the alien must go home to survive or risk getting caught by government authorities), cannot last. Of course, both LET ME IN and E.T. are also set in the same time period (1983, 1982). This film didn’t emotionally touch me in the same way E.T. did, but then again, I was fucking 8 years old when E.T. came out so I was a lot more impressionable back then.

LET ME IN is helped in no small measure by the virtuoso performances given by Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Abby and Owen. Both have previously demonstrated excellent performances in, respectively, KICK-ASS and THE ROAD. Given the heavy handed dramatic elements and adult themes of the movies they have acted in, I’m sure these actors will grow up to be pretty fucked up individuals down the road. For now, however, we can take great pleasure in watching them express with uncanny observation all the subtleties that their characters require in this movie. Its hard to believe how young these actors are because as you watch this film, you get a sense that they are really adults who inhabit pre-adolescent bodies. I did not see THE ROAD, but after seeing Smit-McPhee here, I look forward to seeing it. As for Moretz, what can I say that has not already been said by the two outstanding performances she has given this year? She is a talent that will surely skyrocket to great heights as her career progresses and I await with great anticipation on what she will give us next.

Unfortunately, Overture Films, the distributor of LET ME IN, has done a piss-poor job of marketing this movie. Consequently, the movie opened very weakly at the box office and will likely remain largely ignored by moviegoers. This movie deserves much more attention and recognition and I urge you all to go see it. I don’t think there is a better vampire movie out there (at least there is not a better one I have seen) and I know there are a lot of vampire fans out there and a few who read my blog. If you were willing to throw money away by paying to see TWILIGHT in a theater, the least you can do to repair the brain damage you have caused yourself is to see LET ME IN. You won’t be sorry. Below is the trailer.

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