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Let Me In (2010)
- Top 25 Movies of 2010 (#18)
Let Me In is a 2010 American romantic horror film directed by Matt Reeves and starring Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloë Grace Moretz. It is based on the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in), directed by Tomas Alfredson, and the novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist. It tells the story of a bullied 12-year-old boy who develops a friendship with a vampire child in Los Alamos, New Mexico in the early 1980s. Interest in producing an English version of Let the Right One In began in 2007 shortly before it was released to audiences. In 2008, Hammer Films acquired the rights for the English adaptation and initially offered Tomas Alfredson, the director of the Swedish film, the opportunity to direct, which he declined. Matt Reeves was then signed to direct and write the screenplay. Reeves made several changes for the English version such as altering the setting from Stockholm to New Mexico and renaming the lead characters. The film's producers stated that their intent was to keep the plot similar to the original, yet make it more accessible to a wider audience. Principal photography began in early November 2009, and concluded in January 2010.
It's the early '80s in Los Alamos, New Mexico. We meet young Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) a very sensitive boy with an absentee father and a drunken mother. Mercilessly picked on by bullies at his school, our distressed hero loses himself in a world of imagined vengeance and lonely days on the apartment complex playground. One chilly winter night, he runs into the barefooted Abby (Chloë Moretz), his new neighbor. Owen is initially intrigued, but the girl makes it very clear the two cannot be friends. Meanwhile, a nameless policeman (Elias Koteas) is investigating a rash of ritualistic murders in the area -- and the clues seem to lead to the man (Richard Jenkins) who acts as Abby's guardian. Soon, Owen discovers the truth about his accidental playmate, and the connection between the two grow stronger...and quite sinister.
Like Steven Spielberg shuttled over to much darker and dense territory, Let Me In is a revelation. It's a work of stunning power, visionary in its use of mood and atmosphere, subversive in the way its story crawls under your skin. Like a carefully controlled poem, director Matt Reeves meticulously crafts every scene to fit within the others, nearly turning the film into a cinematic verse epic in the process. With a cast that carries his minimalistic approach to sublime levels and a story that's both slightly familiar and yet completely innovative, it's like watching the original film with totally new eyes. We know where things are going, but Reeves wants to take us there in a new and inventive way.
From the start, the main leads argue for their ability to anchor a film. Smit-McPhee, rather unimportant in the bland adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, is a marvel here. He is so thin, so part of the period being depicted that he's almost iconic. Every time we see him, we sense another avenue of understanding and emotional dimension opening up. He's the fulcrum around which this entire project revolves. Without him, Let Me In would be less than a success. Luckily, Reeves also cast Ms. Moretz as his supernatural lead, and while not quite as ethereal as little Swedish darling Lina Leandersson, she's her own unique version of the ageless member of the living dead. The vampire element is underplayed here -- it's given mandatory moments of macabre bloodletting, but never really viewed as a true threat or supreme evil. Instead, we are supposed to view the horror of the real world as seen through the eyes of these children and marvel at how they could possibly survive.
In fact, Let Me In is one of the best, boldest coming of age statements ever. It centers on the angst that drives the pre-adolescent, the uneasy feeling of being an outsider and alone in your nonconformity, and then highlights its harmful aftereffects. That said sentiments are expressed in torrents of blood instead of silly psycho-babble proves this film's brilliance. Fans hoping that Reeves would merely avoid screwing things up can finally exhale. Let Me In is one of the best films of 2010 -- with or without its celebrated source material.