Let Me In

4 out of 5 stars
Let's hope Matt ‘Cloverfield’ Reeves’s melancholic and lightly politicised remake of Tomas Alfredson’s ambient Swedish teen-vamp classic 'Let the Right One In' can avoid the horrorphile brickbats that will inevitably be thrown at it. For, taken on its own merits, 'Let Me In' shows exceptional craft. Reeves relocates the story to New Mexico in 1983, a period soundtracked principally and amusingly by David Bowie's 'Let's Dance', and once again the story concerns the pre-teen, winter-light love affair between pallid social outcast Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and his feral, blood-lusting, sad-eyed beau, Abby (Chloe Moretz).

The film juxtaposes with grace the pair's otherness from a society fuelled by Reaganite machismo with the fact that their mutual affection is stymied by bizarre supernatural goings-on. A scrawny Smit-McPhee builds on his vulnerable naïf act from John Hillcoat’s ‘The Road’, offering a cruel sense of just why he has no friends – but it’s Moretz who runs away with the film, proving she’s much more than a one-hit Hit–Girl with a suitably restrained and empathetic performance.

Reeves’s direction lunges more resolutely for the mainstream jugular, but that's no bad thing. There are a number of extremely distressing set pieces (including a car crash shot from a fixed-camera inside a vehicle) that make this feel less of an art film than the original. Yet there’s no sense that the film has been made to satisfy the more adventurous alumni of the panda-eyed ‘Twilight’ set: this is just as committed to depicting the disquieting, anti-social particulars of the initial pangs of puberty as the original. It’s also interesting that Reeves – unlike Alfredson – chooses to make Abby’s victims anonymous: we’re not invited to sympathise with her because she’s dispatching single-note grotesques. If anything, this makes her situation all the more tragic. These subtle variations aside, ‘Let Me In’ doesn’t strain to differentiate itself from the original, and some major events (including the gore-splashed underwater finale) are staged almost identically.

But perhaps the film's greatest coup (and what makes it – whisper it – better than the original) is that it refuses to romanticise teenage loneliness. It portrays these troubled tweens as a product of their estrangement rather than cute non-confomists blazing their own violent trail against the hatemongers. It makes our relationship with the unfortunately feeble Owen much more complex and – via an extremely troubling and perceptive final shot which suggests that he's still not mature enough to comprehend the realities of his ordeal – deliciously dangerous.

By: David Jenkins


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