Set in the snowy winter of Los Alamos, New Mexico, Matt Reeves' Let Me In is a coming-of-age romantic horror film. A remake of the Swedish film Let the Right One In, the film focuses on the relationship that slowly forms between Chloë Grace Moretz' Abby and Kodi Smit-McPhee's Owen.
Owen, a bullied 12-year old, seems adrift in life, not fitting in at school and receiving little attention from his separated parents. Noticing the new neighbors, Owen attempts a friendship with Abby, the "12-year old" girl next door. The horror for the majority of the film is shown only through the actions of Richard Jenkins' Thomas, the father or companion of Abby, and through the behaviors of the bullies at Owen's school. Thomas murders and drains victims of blood for Abby's consumption, the bullies brutally abuse a helpless child. As an investigation into the murders of several people about town occurs, these two live outside of that, with Owen barely aware of the dangers Abby presents. They share a Rubik's Cube, tap Morse-code through the wall, and visit the local arcade. They are blissfully falling for each other, surrounded by the dangers of the world.
The film is well-shot, with a few striking moments of cinematography. The only thing that truly lacks is the CGI for Abby, but it was 2010 and the budget was low. You can't really fault the filmmakers for that. However, it might have made the horror seem more horrific, if we never actually saw vampiric Abby. Let audiences see the aftermath, what Thomas does, what the bullies do, but leave her shrouded in mystery. This fault, however, hardly detracts from the film, is only applicable to the third act, and can easily be dismissed given the nature of the rest of the film that Reeves crafted.
The characters are what drives this story, as is often the case with Reeves' films. Owen is bullied and neglected, turning to the strange girl he only ever sees at night in the courtyard of their apartment complex. While Twilight may have used the "we can't be friends" bit first, this film certainly does that more effectively. The tension of the world, the quiet of the snow, and the danger of Thomas lead viewers on a slow journey, the conclusion of which is horrific, but somehow acceptable. These characters are pitiable, and that makes their actions defensible.
What Matt Reeves excels at is populating worlds with characters that are not always human, but somehow so relatable and oftentimes more human because of it. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes both did this. The apes may have been violent, but it was a necessary violence, spurned on by the insatiable need for the humans to be the only dominant species. Cloverfield uses the most average of people and their lives to propel a chaotic story of survival. And Let Me In uses a young vampire girl to show the love of two people. She may need to kill to live, but she can also love and will fiercely defend her friends from the violence of the human world. It will be interesting to see his take on the superhero 'verse as he works on his script for the Batman, but it might be the best hope DC has for anything remotely close to the brilliance of Christopher Nolan's Batman. At least with Reeve, we can be certain there will be plenty of emotional character development in the guise of a superhero film.
If you're heading into the weekend and need something other than the latest Netflix true crime series, Let Me In might be the shoe that fits. Not that a vampire needs shoes.