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Ten Word or Less Review: Excellent remake of excellent original.

A lot of skeptics said that remaking the acclaimed Swedish vampire effort Let the Right One In was a fool’s errand.  It’s a morally perplexing tale rooted in a type of character ambiguity that sometimes borderlines on maddening.  High romance isn’t the order of the day, nor is straight ahead horror scares or traditional action beats.  Many assumed it would simply be a dumber version of the same story or radically reworked for the thickish American movie goer and in the process completely loose any point for existing.  But director Matt Reeves has sidestepped the slippery slopes of remaking an acclaimed foreign film.  To the shock of many he has remade the Swedish classic in a way that will make fans of the original happy.  How?  He didn’t change much of anything accept the title.

Let Me In, like Let the Right One In, follows an emotionally isolated and lonely young teen named Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee).  Owen is cruelly victimized by bullies and has no friends.  He spends his time alone in his room, spying on his neighbors and indulging in disturbing revenge fantasies against the bullies who terrorize him.  One day a strange girl named Abby (Chloe Moritz) moves in next door and Owen suddenly has someone to talk to and give him real advice.  Even though Abby tells Owen that they can’t be friends, every night like clockwork she appears and the two become strange companions.  Abby is aloof, cryptic and secretive of her circumstances because she’s a vampire in hiding.  Her ‘Father’ (Richard Jenkins) is a servant of sorts who kills victims for Abby to drink their blood.  Soon Owen thinks he has a best friend, but the frozen, unspecified town falls into uncertainty as bodies begin to pile up.

Let Me In is the kind of achievement which Gus Van Sant wanted to accomplish with his ill-advised Psycho remake.  Reeves has focused his efforts to recreate the original movie almost beat for beat, but also give it a look and style that doesn’t feel like effortless copycatting.  The performances by Moritz and Smit-McPhee hold the film up high and give the story emotional resonance.  If either of them had faltered then Let Me In probably would have died fast dramatically.  All of the untraditional horror carnage is also in place.  Abby and her father don’t just kill ‘bad people’ ala Dexter.  They stalk whoever is a possible victim out of necessity.  If she doesn’t feed she’ll die and it’s as simple as that.  This lack of moral hand wringing over killing innocent and even likable characters will probably leave a lot of viewers feeling creepy or removed from Let Me In.

Though both versions of the story have found a lot of acclaim they both suffer from a similar fault that’s worth mentioning.  Not explaining the details of Abby’s predicament as a vampire is understandable but the character is a shade too aloof, maybe by a few degrees.  We’re never quite clear about what Abby wants from Owen or why she’s chosen to befriend him the way she has.  There are lots of places to take this discussion and I’m sure plenty of admirers have worked out any number of answers, but I think a few small details about Abby may have made the situation feel less sketchy.  Considering what Let Me In accomplishes it’s not a deal breaker at all, but something worth mentioning.

At its end Let Me In, like its Swedish cousin, is a movie that crafts a touching relationship about a meek, lonely boy and the ruthless killing machine who befriends him.  Its peculiar and untraditional point of view flies in the face of average movie moralizing that most films are slavish too.  Let Me In requires its audience to reconcile the horrible acts some of its characters perform out of survival and go along with them regardless because despite the things these people do, they’re still sympathetic.  All this gives Let Me In a strange edge to it that few movies, even horror films, would even think about touching.

 

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