Let Me In

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Vampire movies aren't going away anytime soon, and Sweden's Let the Right One In, a more-elegant-than-not tale of teenage alienation (and bloodsucking), has made the resurgence that much easier to stomach. So let's hear it for the oldest succubi in the book: Hollywood remakers. You'd think these parasites would have turned this intimate foreign property into a gory mess. But the new Let Me In does more than merely preserve the original's mood; it actually improves on it.

Mainly, this is a function of superior performances. The Road's Kodi Smit-McPhee seems born to solicit sympathies in scorched-earth environments; here, he plays Owen, a wide-eyed 12-year-old kicking around a depressed Los Alamos, a victim of bullying. A new neighbor his age draws his attention, the kind of sad, slightly creepy loner girl that worked like catnip on boys in a Culture Club--saturated 1983, when the film is set. (If you saw Chlo Grace Moretz happily slicing her way through Kick-Ass, forget it; this is a total U-turn.) "Would you like me even if I wasn't a girl?" Abby gently asks her new playground companion; the uncertain bloom that follows owes as much to Spielberg's suburban fantasies as to any toothy tale of horror.

Can this subtle, attentive quasiromance really have come from the guy who gave us Cloverfield? Matt Reeves, shrewdly directing and adapting, is smart enough to keep everything that worked the first time (including that doozy of a pool scene), while trimming some unnecessary special effects and flourishes. The question will invariably be asked: Was an English-language version even needed? One might have challenged wunderkind 1920s producer Carl Laemmle Jr. on the same grounds after he saw Murnau's Nosferatu; he savored the details and made Dracula.

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By: Joshua Rothkopf

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