Let Me In
I went to the movies at the Highland Galaxy Theater on Saturday, and I wanted to see The Town (because I’ve read the book the movie was based on, and it’s fucking awesome). However, at the time that I went to the theater The Town was the only movie that wasn’t starting soon, and I would have had to wait for two hours to see it. So, I chose to see Let Me In instead. I’m not disappointed.
Let Me In is an English language remake of a Swedish movie, also based on a Swedish book, called in its English translation, Let the Right One In. I like subtitles. They make me feel smart. But I haven’t seen or read the material this movie is based on. I like scary movies. I don’t mind the vampire genre when it’s done well (as in, not Twilight).
This movie is done exceptionally well. It’s directed by Matt Reeves, who also directed The Pallbearers and Cloverfield, but don’t let that throw you off. This movie is really great. For one, the young actors are just heartbreakingly beautiful and talented. Forget the sparkly vampire love story. This is a real, poignant love story.
Owen, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee is a bullied twelve-year-old boy. His parents are divorcing, and his father is nothing but a disembodied voice on the telephone. He’s already moved on to a new girlfriend. He cares so much about Owen that he spends an entire conversation making the kid feel like shit by criticizing his mother’s religious “fanaticism” (we see no evidence of anything resembling fanaticism beyond her recital of grace at meals). He ends the conversation by telling Owen that “maybe” he’ll see him soon, like the weekend after next.
Owen’s mother is so distant that the camera never actually shows us her face, and every scene that she’s in involves a cask of cheap red wine. Sometimes she is out of focus. Sometimes only parts of her are shown. She never gets out of a bedrobe, and she seems to spend most of the movie passed out drunk.
The movie is set in the winter of 1983 in Los Alamos, New Mexico, in a dreary and depressing cinder block apartment complex. Owen meets Abby when she and a middle aged man that Owen assumes is her father move in next door. Abby is played by Chloe Moretz. Both of the kids are impossibly gorgeous and androgynous. One wonders, if you switched the hairstyles, if they could each play the other’s part.
The middle aged man is played, wearily, by Richard Jenkins. He and Abby argue. He walks stooped, and his depression has made him foggy, which is symbolized by his thick, cracked Coke bottle lenses. He and Abby have a strange relationship, and we sense early on that they are not father-daughter. There is something almost creepy in the way he touches her. He doesn’t seem to be sexually attracted to her, but this is a jealous kind of love, and we sense that he treats her as an equal.
One thing that I really liked about this movie is that it doesn’t glamourize or sexualize vampirism. This vampirism really is vampirism: bloody, gory, ugly, violent. People aren’t seduced or ravaged in rapturous trances to a soundtrack of sweeping orchestral string arrangements. It’s quick and brutal and animalistic. This is the kind of hunger with which you might attack a submarine sandwich after a week long fast. There isn’t anything pretty about it.
A lot of this movie is predictable, but there is at least one new take on the vampire legend, which doesn’t involve sparkling. Also, there is one good surprise twist involving the Richard Jenkins character that makes the movie very emotionally satisfying. I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you, so I won’t. You should look for an appearance by Elias Koteas. He’s been in small parts in a lot of movies I’ve seen lately, and he’s so good that I never recognize him at first as that detective from Law & Order: SVU – Detective Olivia Benson’s partner.
[Important retraction: these guys are doppelgangers. Click on the link for Elias Koteas and find out that you should always research things before publishing them on the internet. Also, you can’t always trust your eyes. Elias Koteas is in the movie. Christopher Meloni is the guy from Law & Order: SVU. The link on IMDB mentions that the two actors are frequently mistaken for each other. So, my apologies to both Mr. Meloni and Mr. Koteas. If it makes you feel any better, I think you’re both hot.]
The kids act like twelve-year-old kids. Owen maneuvers Abby into a vacant apartment with the hopes of a make out session, and Abby, in her eternal cusp of adolescence, shows her genuine affection for Owen and her self-consciousness. In one scene, she asks Owen if he will still like her even if she isn’t a girl. In another, she sneaks into bed with him, naked, with blood still caked on her bottom lip and her chin, and vocalizes her lack of confidence.
This love story beats Edward and that Bella chick all to hell, and it’s genuinely scary besides. If you don’t see it, then it’s your loss.