Blu-ray Review: Let Me In (2010)

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While filmmaker Tomas Alfredson’s astronomically popular and critically acclaimed adaptation of Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel Let the Right One In remained in my Netflix queue collecting cyber dust, I avoided spoiler laden coverage and conversations about the 2008 cult phenomenon until the fanboy buzz died down. Seeking the blissful absence of hyperbole, I wanted the timing to be right before I could objectively approach Let the Right One In.

However the chatter turned out to be as immortal as the vamps in the Swedish source material once Cloverfield director Matt Reeves announced his own controversial plans to adapt Lindqvist’s novel.

And to dispute the charge that he was just going to simply remake the foreign film that was (then) not even a year old with an English language vocal track instead of the original Swedish one, Reeves countered that he was going back to the text to create an entirely new translation.

Rightfully assuming that the obsession with the original One would cloud most viewers’ version of Reeves’s film whether it was among fans in the comic book store or critics in print, I resisted the now-stronger-than-ever temptation to push play on Alfredson’s Right One via my Netflix connected Roku player.

Since it wasn't after all the right time to haphazardly Let the Right One In or threaten my reaction to both, I opted to view Reeves’ Let Me In without a single frame in my head for comparison.

Following an obligatory intense opening sequence that serves less like a formulaic framing device and more to clue us in on keeping our antennae up since all is not what it seems, Let Me In reveals itself to be a surprisingly understated, intimate and quiet work of character-driven suspense.

Having responded to Lindqvist’s novel in a deeply personal way by acknowledging that it reminded him of his childhood (all horror elements aside), Reeves's straightforward, matter-of-fact handling of events ranging from schoolyard bullying to a vampire attack flies in the face of traditional over-the-top gimmicky horror techniques.

For in stark contrast to gore for gore sake or making viewers jump in their seat as many times as possible, Let Me In is almost accidentally scary like a coming-of-age docudrama that just so happens to involve the undead.

Likewise, the supernatural backdrop adds a visceral layer to the pain and awkwardness of adolescence. And the fact that the emotional maturation of young boys is so seldom explored onscreen makes Let Me In both incredibly poignant and potent.

Once the extended flashback begins after the startling opening sequence of the film set in 1983, we're introduced to the lonely, mercilessly bullied twelve year old Owen (The Road's Kodi Smit-McPhee), whom we discover fends mostly for himself while his self-involved parents fight with one another over the phone during their messy divorce.

Sneaking money out of his mom's purse to buy his favorite candy as sort of a daily ritualized reward for surviving the escalating abuse of sadistic bullies at school, Owen's regular routine is altered one evening when his eye catches sight of a new arrival to his New Mexico apartment complex who appears to be about his age.

Ironically, from the very moment that Abby tells Owen (Kick-Ass scene-stealer Chloe Grace Moretz) that they can't be friends, we sense that an intense bond has already begun, which only grows stronger as she encourages him to stand up for himself by hitting the bullies back harder than he dares and he introduces her to games he enjoys.

However, there's only so much about the young girl and the man who appears to be her father (Richard Jenkins) that Owen's able to see by spying on his neighbors in some stark shot compositions that call to mind Rear Window and The Decalogue.

Although Abby skirts around the increasingly obvious reality of her nature despite dropping Owen a few hints, the viewer has both the benefit and the curse of knowing much more about the bodies that have been dropping like flies in and around their complex.

And it's about this time that events take a far more desperate turn in the third act as Owen comes visually face-to-face with the truth he's barely only begun to intellectualize regarding Abby.

Fittingly, this realization of the truth and the way Owen processes what's going on similarly makes or breaks the movie for viewers as well since, like Owen we're pushed into unspeakably dark territory so much so that it risks the empathy we'd previously had for at least one main character.

Nonetheless and right in the nick of time, this work of existential terror is bolstered by the humanity on display in the extremely believable turns by the talented cast members who tackle their difficult roles as damaged people forced to deal with the tragic lot they've been given in life as opposed to the one-dimensional terrifying or super-sexy cool vamp stereotypes we usually see in the supernatural genre.

Thus, overall the melancholic movie has much more in common with the cruel, twisted fates faced by characters in Never Let Me Go than the hot-and-bothered love triangle in Twilight.

A visually arresting, deeply somber work that's given a first-rate high definition transfer with an astounding theatrical quality audio track, Reeves's Let Me In is a strikingly effective work of horror as metaphor with this moody coming-of-age saga that proves that no gimmick is scarier than a straightforward treatment of a supernatural tale.

And although I can't offer you a Swedish to English translation or evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of both adaptations side-by-side, having seen Reeves's version as a standalone work, I can say that Me is quite an impressive piece of cinema in its own right, fanboy in-fighting aside.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.