Here’s my latest IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column, on the Hammer comeback movie LET ME IN (2010) directed by Matt Reeves and starring Chloe Grace Moretz, published in the August 2014 edition of The Horror Writers Association Newsletter.
And remember, if you like this column, my book IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, a collection of 115 horror movie columns, is available from NECON EBooks as an EBook at www.neconebooks.com, and as a print edition at https://www.createspace.com/4293038.
IN THE SPOOKLIGHT
LET ME IN (2010) is one of my favorite vampire movies.
Sure, it’s the first Hammer Film to be released in theaters since the 1970s, but that’s not the reason I like it so much.
And yes, it’s a remake of the Swedish film LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008), which many consider to be the superior film. However, back in its heyday, Hammer made its living with horror movie remakes, and they did just fine. I’m here to say that Hammer’s version of the novel Let The Right One In by Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist, the source material for both movies, is every bit as good as the original 2008 film.
Of course, it helps to have a topnotch director at the helm, and a charismatic young star. Hammer had both, in director Matt Reeves, the man responsible for the instant horror movie classic CLOVERFIELD (2008), and in young actress Chloe Grace Moretz, who dazzled audiences as the 11 year-old crime fighter Hit Girl in KICK-ASS (2010).
In LET ME IN, twelve year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is having a rough time of it. His parents are getting divorced, and he’s bullied relentlessly at school by a group of bullies led by a boy named Kenny (Dylan Minnette). However, things begin to look up when a young girl named Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz) moves into the apartment next door with her father (Richard Jenkins).
The two become friends, and for Owen, things get even better when Abby agrees to go steady with him, which for a twelve year-old, is a huge deal. But Abby has a dark secret— she’s a vampire, and when people around the apartment complex start turning up dead, and a police detective (Elias Koteas) shows up investigating the murders, Owen realizes his new best friend is responsible for some very bad things.
LET ME IN works on many different levels, but the best part is that the true horror in this movie isn’t the vampire stuff, but the hellish torment Owen goes through at school at the hands of Kenny and his friends. Even though Abby is responsible for killing people and drinking their blood, we don’t hate or fear her. In fact, we’re rooting for her when she offers to help Owen with his bully problem. Likewise, we’re rooting for Owen and Abby to somehow elude the authorities so they can remain friends.
LET ME IN is blessed with very likable characters. Take the police detectivechloe grace moretz – let me in, played by Elias Koteas, for example. He’s a very sympathetic character, which leads to a mixture of emotions later in the film when he closes in on Abby and Owen. We obviously don’t want to see Abby caught by the police, but yet in a very exciting scene near the end of the film, when Koteas’ detective finally gets inside Abby’s apartment and is about to discover her body sleeping during the day, we don’t want to see anything happen to him either.
The same can be said about Richard Jenkins’ character. He goes about the countryside brutally murdering people so he can get blood for Abby, and yet, in a key scene, where his plans go awry, we’re almost wishing for him to escape those who are chasing him.
Our emotions are played perfectly by writer/director Matt Reeves. Other than the two young leads, Reeves is the reason this movie works so well. It’s a clever script with even better direction.
Behind the camera, Reeves pays close attention to detail. The murder scenes are set up as intricately as something Hitchcock would have done. And the story is told in a way that builds suspense and piques our interest. From the opening sequence where a police escort brings a severely burned victim to the hospital, the victim a suspect in a series of “cult” murders, we wonder, who is this guy? We don’t know the truth about Abby at first, and only gradually do we learn what’s really going on.
Then there’s the whole love story angle, which works incredibly well considering the leads are just twelve years-old, which is why, no doubt, Reeves continually makes reference to Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet, to perhaps show us the relevance and validity of young love. The scenes between Moretz and McPhee are handled with an amazing degree of sensitivity and tenderness.
I have to say that I loved Reeves’ directorial effort here, so much so that I think he may have matched his phenomenal work on CLOVERFIELD.
The two leads own this movie. Chloe Grace Moretz is spectacular here as young Abby. She’s as good as she was as Hit Girl in KICK-ASS. She’s incredibly sincere and real in her scenes with Owen, and when she becomes haunted by her bloodlust, she turns savage in a second, and young Moretz handles this transition masterfully.
Young Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen is every bit as good as Moretz. He’s such a scrawny helpless victim you can’t help but feel for him. And again, his scenes with Moretz are nothing short of amazing. Their relationship is genuine and heartfelt.
The scene where they deal with Abby’s need to be invited inside a home is one of the most touching sequences you’ll find in any vampire movie.
The film also features an excellent supporting cast. Richard Jenkins is outstanding as Abby’s guardian. In fact, the sequence where his murder attempt goes wrong, and he finds himself trapped in the backseat of a car is one of my favorite scenes in the movie. Jenkins makes this man such a sympathetic character, which is remarkable, considering the brutal murders he commits.
Elias Koteas is also excellent as the police detective, and to his credit he takes a small role and makes it matter. We want to see him solve the crime, until that is, it means capturing young Abby. Koteas and Jenkins are two of my favorite actors, and it was great seeing them both in this movie.
Just as good as these two veteran actors is young Dylan Minnette as the bully Kenny. He’s as menacing a bully as you’ll find in a movie. Minnette was also very good as Hugh Jackman’s son in the kidnap thriller PRISONERS (2013).
Don’t let the fact that LET ME IN is a remake fool you.
LET ME IN is a superior horror film, written and directed by one of the most talented directors working in genre films today, Matt Reeves, and it features knock-out performances by its two young leads, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace Moretz, as well as a topnotch cast of supporting actors. And, it’s produced by Hammer Films, a company that based on its rich history (hello Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing) knows a thing or two about horror movie remakes.
“Can I come in?” Abby asks Owen from outside his window. “You have to say it.”
LET ME IN.