Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee in a scene from Let Me InThe new millennium has been accompanied by an inexplicable need to remake internationally successful foreign films in English for Western audiences.  An inclination that has often been reserved for Asian horror films is now expanding its web. Sweden’s beautiful and poignant Let the Right One In has become the latest victim of this perplexing movement. Hammer Films’ Let Me In was ‘inspired’ by the 2008 film and the best-selling Swedish novel of the same name by Lat den Ratte Komma. The result is virtually an English-language reproduction of the original film.

Abby (Chloe Moretz), a mysterious 12-year-old girl moves in next door to Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Owen is a social outcast who is viciously bullied at school and in his loneliness, forms a profound bond with his new neighbour. Owen can’t help noticing that Abby is like no one he has ever met before. As a string of grisly murders occupy the town, Owen has to confront the reality that this seemingly innocent girl is really a savage vampire.

As a replica of its predecessor, the essence of the film remains the same. It’s a coming-of-age horror movie that is also a confounding love story and a reflection of the painful transition into adolescence. Owen’s desire to attach himself to Abby stems from his isolation at both home and school. To further demonstrate his seclusion, Owen’s mother’s face is obscured throughout the entire movie, making her as invisible to the audience as she is to her son. His willingness to overlook Abby’s more objectionable traits simply reflects his deep longing to be needed and loved. Abby’s motives, on the other hand, are more difficult to interpret. Her necessity for a companion is the most obvious cause for her interest in Owen; but the less cynical viewer has to hope she cares for him at least a fraction of how much he does her – and at least some of her actions towards her previous companion and Owen support this.

Smit-McPhee’s previous role in The Road was more than adequate preparation for this part: both characters are profoundly alone, forced to cling to one person for hope of a better future. His genuineness in every situation is striking, whether he’s terrified of a bully, expressing his devotion to Abby or struggling with his natural repulsion to her existence. Moretz proved she doesn’t have an aversion to violence when she played the sword-wielding dynamo in Kick-Ass. Here, she confirms her ability to depict characters with more depth by effectively portraying a girl that is much more than she appears. She succeeds by exhibiting meaningful expressions and a clear understanding of the complexities of her character. Together, these teens tell a touching story with tangible emotions.

Their adult co-stars are good, but nearly insignificant to the narrative’s core. Richard Jenkins is convincing as Abby’s tired but loyal companion. Having become disenchanted with his life, he reveals an utter weariness with his existence, but also a determination not to disappoint the object of his affections. Elias Koteas is the detective investigating the local homicides, which requires him to be serious and thoughtful. Cara Buono plays Owen’s mother and even though her face is hidden, she delivers an intense performance as a mentally absent guardian.

Writer/director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) makes a notable difference between the 2008 version of the film and this one in its rendering of Abby’s darker side. The latter makes the vampire Abby monstrous and frightening, utilizing close-ups to show the ugliness of her secret identity. It somewhat makes Owen’s acceptance more confusing, but also more representative of his strong feelings for her. In addition, the original film took place in the 1980’s, while the new version is slightly updated to occur in the 1990’s during the Reagan administration. Broadcasts of Reagan talking about the “Evil Empire” and the evil outside are shown throughout the picture as an interesting match to this exploration of the existence of evil.

In the end, the production is a quality imitation of the first film, benefitting from good casting and the fact that it stayed true to the source material.

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