Saturday, October 30, 2010

First Impression: Let Me In

Let Me In had some awfully big shoes to fill and it had the odds stacked against it, or so it first seemed. A remake of the Swedish film Let the Right One In, itself a film of the ultra-black novel of the same name, the first question was why remake such a fantastic film so soon?

Then there was the pedigree, it was being co-produced by Hammer whose comeback film, Beyond the Rave, missed much more than it hit and was being directed by Matt Reeves, known for Cloverfield, thus known for shaking cameras – a pet hate.

The odds were stacked but initial reports were good and, having just been to a UK preview of the film…Wow… and Hammer are back… and Wow…

I will assume knowledge of the original film and apologise now for spoilers and say that you would probably get the best effect watching this with no prior knowledge. Essentially the film follows Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a young boy who is bullied, whose parents are divorcing and who harbours fantasies that perhaps shouldn’t be allowed to develop. He meets Abby (Chloe Moretz) and they start an awkward relationship. She is a vampire, of course he doesn’t know that at first.

The film does not start there, however, but actually starts with her ‘protector’ or servant, known only as the Father (Richard Jenkins), being rushed to hospital having poured acid over his face, accompanied by the police as he is the main suspect in a brutal murder where a young man was exsanguinated, and his subsequent tumble from a hospital window. I did wonder at this for, whilst it didn’t show Abby’s involvement, it certainly revealed a main plot area in the first few minutes. What it actually did was... I was going to say set the pace but it didn’t... more it set the undertone that pervaded the film.

Indeed there are changes to the film from the Swedish film and I felt that they all worked in their own way. Indeed some scenes that remained – the iconic bed-burning set piece for one – were vastly superior. The bed scene was absolutely brutal – fantastic stuff. Abby's secret, obliquely hinted at in the Swedish film, is utterly dropped in this.

I was impressed with the way that Abby’s vampiric moments were displayed. There was an aspect of animalism but it was deeper and darker than that, it was demonic, it was evil. It certainly wasn't pretty at all. Owen has had an insight when he asks his (absent and only on the phone) father about evil but he doesn’t really realise it, seduced by its pleasant face and possibly drawn to it because of his vulnerability and the strength it offers.

The book has a strong aspect that reality is scarier than any monster and the fact that Håkan, the Father in this, is a child molester is part of that. In this there is no hint of such crimes. The Father's targets are older teens, the normal fodder of the slasher in horror films, in fact the film switches things on its head. In this Owen is, in many respects, groomed by Abby. She is twelve but has been twelve for a long time and we see pictures of her with the Father at Owen’s age. In this way she is much more evil than her demonic, hungry and violent vampiric visage gives credence for. If only Owen knew that when, at the head of the film, he wears a mask and postures with a knife at the mirror it is a glimpse of him in old age, that he will be the Father.

That brings us to performances and I expected Chloe Moretz to be good – she stole the show in Kick Ass. It is the finest child vampire performance submitted to celluloid. Understated, subtle and truly terrifying – especially after the event and you are able to take in the full magnitude of her performance. Kodi Smit-McPhee was an unknown to me and he was superb, laying down a performance any actor would be proud of.

Let Me In is a must see. The full Taliesin Meets the Vampires review will be done once the DVD has been released and expect it to score very high.

The imdb page is here.


Derek Tatum said...

I prefer the Swedish version, but this one was still Very, Very Good. It is easily the best American-made vampire film in years.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Derek they - both films - are esaily 'vampire royalty' when it comes to vamp flicks... that is without a doubt.

Derek Tatum said...

Now for my pet peeve... I keep hearing horror fans say that the romance genre is ruining vampires, how vampires need to be brought back to their horror roots, etc. As great as "Let Me In" is, it bombed at the box office. Where were those horror supporters? This was the kind of movie that vampire fans have been waiting for for years. I'm sure that there was some blowback by people offended at it being a remake. But most every critic - both genre and mainstream - praised it. The movie could have used more support from the people who whine about "Twilight" and then complain that there aren't enough vampire horror films.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Derek, I couldn't agree more... ok, it was a preview today and the 6PM showing but there were me and my two friends who went with in the cinema tonight... Twilight they're cueing round the blooming block.

It might be a remake (though I'd be curious as to just how many UK or US fans watched the original) but it is the vampire film we've been waiting for, horrific and well made.

of my two friends who went, one had seen the Swedish original, the other had not... he declared it probably the best vampire film he has ever seen.

So where were the genre fans?

Zahir Blue said...

You've already seen my review, which was a rave. One thing that stuck in my head was that Abby seemed *both* a lonely and loving twelve-year-old girl AND that Gollum-esque demon that is the vampire.

Here in the US, the movie was perhaps advertised as being more overtly horrific than it in fact is. Curiously, most critics who praised it also complained about the special effects (as did lots of blog & youtube reviews). One wonders why this is so important? Especially since the FX were good, just not the highest quality (and made up a very tiny part of the film anyway).

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Zahir, I liked the fact that the effects looked odd (talking round her attacks here and climbing etc that were cgi effects) because it looked inhuman - and I thought perhaps that was the point. It was a small part, as you say and there is an entire juxtaposition between the sweet face and the demonesque vampire that I'll probably want to explore in the full review.