Yo, this be Reuben. I went in CEX the other day and there was a Blu-Ray of this for £1, so it was obvious really. I can safely say that it was worth it, the great expense though it was.
The latest in my watchlist of horror films that I’ve ticked off, Let Me In is a real goodun. Going into it I wasn’t quite sure what to expect considering it was a pretty big blockbuster hit at the time and an American remake of a classic (one that came out literally two years prior, no less) starring Chloë Grace Moretz of all people, but once I’d realised it was a Matt Reeves flick, my expectations lifted and thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed. Apparently Steven King said it’s “one of the best American horror movies in the last 20 years”, and what the heck, maybe he’s right. I’ve not seen the original Swedish Let the Right One In *GASP*, but this seems good enough competition, at least.
As annoying as Grace Moretz can be, as her breakthrough main role on the big screen, she’s pretty impressive here as Abby. She portrays the dark tone of her character perfectly, really, and is a convincing 12-year-old vampire, so kudos. Alongside Kodi-Smit McPhee as Owen, the boy she befriends, you’ve got two fine performances and about as good as you can get from child actors.
These two characters reside in Los Alamos, New Mexico, adapted from the original screenplay which took place in Stockholm. A stark difference in setting indeed but one that works brilliantly, as the small ghost town-like Los Alamos is miserable, cold and empty enough to create a powerful sense of brooding. By using this classic American horror trope it both differentiates itself from the Swedish film it’s in debt to and gives it an aspect of nostalgia, lending itself perfectly to the plot as it unfolds.
This plot is an intriguing storyline which sees Abby move in next door to Owen, a misunderstood boy who is regularly bullied at school, as they gradually fall in love with each other when surrounded by darkness at every corner. That darkness kinda engulfs the entire film and tonally, it’s spot on. Religious imagery rears its head into the dialogue and visual surroundings of Owen, while his mother is left mostly blurred and unseen to create a feeling of isolation and almost, at points, claustrophobia. That aforementioned religious malarkey gives the sense of brooding a sense of purpose and develops the tonal intrigue and mystery to the story. Another aspect of Let Me In‘s branching story that makes it all the better is the brutal realism that comes through in Owen’s bullying at school, which is relentless and means the film doesn’t rely on Satanic or gothic imagery, and rather complements it and gives it another level of interest.
In terms of the gorey stuff and the real horror element of Let Me In, Reeves makes it brutal but subtle enough so that more is left to the imagination than is seen. He utilises a washed out visual pallet which adds to the gothic tone of the film and because of the lack of colour generally on screen, when there is blood, or indeed fire, it really stands out — and gladly, this is far from a mindless gore fest so when something bad happens, it really feels like it happens. The score, too, is used intelligently to make every scene that bit better, with a mixture of sub-bass heavy blasts of impact and string-heavy compositions, which result in more effective horror with a sense of grandeur.
Nevertheless, I feel like its big budget detracts from the film a little, as special effects are overused at points. When Abby climbs up a tree or runs away in vampire rage mode or whatever the hell it is it just doesn’t look real — and I know vampires aren’t real, but yunno, suspension of disbelief n’ all that. I also feel like the make-up can get over-the-top at points like these and it detracts from the whole thing a bit. Also, it may just be me, but I didn’t find the film particularly scary, as such — there weren’t many moments that surprised me or left me in complete awe. Although it doesn’t necessarily need to be, I think it could have gone a step beyond at a couple of points, while the rest of the film maybe didn’t quite have enough substance to completely make up for it.
Even still, it’s an intriguing, intelligently put together and entertaining horror flick which is far more than your average blockbuster romp. Matt Reeves expertly blends tones with a fantastic score and an aptly dark colour pallet, while the ghost town setting works wonders for the vampire goings on, and the performances are pretty top-draw. While it may not be a masterpiece and it feels a little bit silly sometimes (it is about vampires, after all), Let Me In comes highly recommended for anyone looking for a spooky time.
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