How to care and feed your very own vampire, or how to ensnare and manipulate your very own human?
In a small Midwestern town in the early 1980’s, twelve-year old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) lives alone with his mother after a separation. A bit of a voyeur and picked on by bigger boys at school, Owen finds a friend in Abby (Chloe Moretz), a new girl in the neighborhood who appears to be about the same age with a fascination solving puzzles and who only comes out after sunset. As their friendship grows, Owen finds himself both empowered by Abby’s inspiration yet at the same time suspect of her. It was shortly after that when the murders started…
Fear, monsters, power, and darkness. These are themes that run heavily through the production, asking questions about standing up to bullies, what is an appropriate measure of retaliation, and the rights of every creature to live (even off of others.) While one person may see Abby as a thing that must be destroyed, it takes the demeanor of someone like Owen to find friendship and offer a sympathetic shoulder to lean on. Which is really the monster?
Let Me In is the American film inspiration of the book that inspired the Swedish-made film Let the Right One In. The stories are essentially the same, but the nuances are different in execution. The Americanized version, for example, is more of a talker but also plays up the horrific elements merely implied by the earlier film. Some shots appear identical, but the overall feel of Let Me In, especially as a period piece set in the early 1980s, has a distinctly American flavor, with people isolated and alone in spite of talking to one another but still living in their own little worlds. Both of Owen’s parents are also given speaking parts, talking more while saying less. In contrast, the Swedish film played up their take on isolationism with actual silence, the so-called “quiet desperation” of downtrodden Europeans.
Richard Jenkins take as Father lends more to the character than Swedish version, especially as things fall apart for him, a plus for the American film. The CGI version of “monster” Abby is a mixed bag, however, appearing both inhumanly monstrous in the ferocity and speed of her attacks but also looking somewhat artificial for the same reason. But neither the Swedish nor the American film misses the mark concerning the relationship between Abby and Owen, especially in the aftermath of Owen allowing Abby to be all that she can be. The darkness of that particular moment is tangible; after all, how much humanity is one willing to compromise in return for willing companionship?
(a three skull recommendation out of our)