Monday, October 18, 2010

Review: Let Me In

Owen isn’t a happy kid. His parents are getting a divorce, he’s bullied at school, and he has no friends. When his mother isn’t stuck in the bottom of a bottle, she’s far too busy to notice the crumbling child left in her care by a father we never really meet. The harsh New Mexico winter brings a steady snowfall and a new neighbor, Abby. The strange girl walks around the snow without shoes and is cared for by a secretive father. As a friendship blossoms between Owen and Abby, a series of grisly murders begin to haunt the city. Unlike the original film, “Let Me In” doesn’t obscure the real menace… Abby is a vampire. She’s a monster from very early on in the film and this adaptation drives home the absolute horror in this tale. And that’s where this film differs from the original Swedish version. It’s not fair, but it is extremely difficult to watch “Let Me In” without comparing it to the original Swedish adaptation of “Let the Right One In”. The announced remake, even if it was going to mark the return of Hammer Studios, had already set my mind against the film and I wasn’t even going to give it the opportunity to let me down. I had no idea how wrong I was going to be proven when I stepped into the theater.

Vampires are monsters. Let me make this clear for you, dear faceless reader… Vampires are undead monstrosities that need to survive on living blood. They do not sparkle, they are not super heroes, and they do not woo the teenage love interest and buy sports cars and vacation homes for fun and leisure. They feed and they hide from the light of day because it will kill them. They keep their identities a secret because ignorance is their greatest weapon. They exist for as long as they continue to feed and they are slaves to this hunger. Abby is a cute little kid, but the thin disguise shatters and we see her for the monster she is. Blood and gore drip from her chin, her eyes are blackened by feral hunger, and she quickly decays without the source of her strength. We don’t have exceptions to the rules; we don’t have arrogant monsters proclaiming their immunity to movie magic. We do have a dyed in the wool hardcore vampire unable to enter people’s homes without invitation, weak during the day, and fearful of discovery. It’s the devotion to traditional horror that sets “Let Me In” apart from the pack or recent trendy vamp flicks or teenage angst horror. The introduction of a potential “Vampire Hunter” character also gives the film a twist that I thought the original lacked. The police officer is brilliantly played by Elias Kotas and provides a much needed “human” touch to the story.

There is a brilliant use of focus and lighting in order to obscure features and isolate certain images. In many cases, the obscurity itself is isolated to show a sense of separation and seclusion between the characters. The director breaks with traditional expectations in order to capture difficult imagery, including a gruesome car crash sequence filmed entirely from a stationary position from the backseat. The films only real failing comes with the CGI sequences, somewhat out of place given the look of the film. But even that failing isn’t enough to detract from the whole of the story. Hammer is definitely back on the map!

5 out of 5.

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