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Let Me In

A Solid, if Superfluous Remake

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Two years ago, a little known Swedish art-horror film, Let the Right One In, arrived in North America, receiving critical acclaim but only bringing its producers and American distributors modest returns. The newly reinvigorated Hammer Films, once the gold standard in horror, reborn under new management, quickly snatched up the remake rights and now the remake directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield), arrives in multiplexes this weekend.

The remake shortens the title to the simpler Let Me In and relocates the setting from Sweden, to Los Alamos, New Mexico, and swaps out the names of the central characters from Oskar and Eli to Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz).

At home, Owen’s mother (Cara Buono) drowns herself in alcohol and God-talk. At school, Owen is an outcast, bullied with minimal social skills and temperament caused, in part, by his parents’ impending divorce. Abby retains the body and mind of a 12-year old girl, but she’s been 12 for a very long time.

Abby’s “father” (Richard Jenkins) protects her during the day and procures blood for her at night. In his mid-fifties, he seems exhausted by the constant need to move and the physical demands of procuring blood. He quickly becomes jealous of Owen, who he sees as a natural rival for Abby’s affections and attention.

Reeves’ adaptation initially departs from the original film, beginning with the frantic transportation by ambulance of a man wounded in an acid attack before flashing back two weeks to Owen, the bullies who torment him, his first meeting with Abby, the murder of a young man (then two), and the investigation by a police detective (Elias Koteas) who suspects Satanic cultists. But that first suggestion of something new and different for moviegoers who’ve seen the Alfredson’s adaptation quickly gives way to an almost beat-for-beat remake, adding blood and gore and, egregiously (because of how purely it’s executed) CG-enhanced scenes involving Abby at her most literally bloodthirsty. There is not a single compelling reason for audiences familiar with the 2008 film to see the remake.

As redundant as Let Me In feels (because it is), Reeves deserves some credit for carefully building and sustaining suspense (ruined, alas, on at least two occasions, by poor CGI as mentioned), using period detail to layer in subtext and create mood, and, most importantly, casting Smit-McPhee and Moretz as the co-leads. Both handle the often rigorous, sometimes disturbing demands of their roles (i.e., a wide range of emotions) convincingly.

Smit-McPhee is even better here than he was in The Road, where he gave the occasionally awkward line reading. Moretz, already recognized as one of the better young actresses, gives a subtle, nuanced performance, always going smaller, depending on minimal changes in facial expression, body language, and line readings to convey Abby’s tortured inner life.