An enormous amount of speculation surrounded the sci-fi horror film Cloverfield, crafted by new comer Matt Reeves and the legendary JJ Abrams, mostly concerning what exactly the film was about, what the Cloverfield Monster looked like, and how the end product was going to turn out. The film is now a cult classic for some and still a massive headache for others thanks to its frantic shooting style. Two years later the young filmmaker has tackled another huge project, a remake of the highly regarded 2006 Swedish film Let the Right One In, re-titled Let Me In. While his new film didn’t quite affect me the same way Cloverfield did, Let Me In is still a still a wonderfully effective film that has plenty to offer for horror fans. The movie takes place in the early 80s, where young Owen has to deal with a ton of baggage in his life, and it really seems like life can’t get any worse for him. His parents are going through a bitter divorce, he has a psychologically disturbed bully (isn’t that that always the best kind), and worst of all, it turns out the girl next door is a vampire. Soon the two foster a romance and the movie follows them as Owen begins to slowly realize that his new “girlfriend” is a lot more dangerous than she seems. The film does feature a great cast, including both Kodi-Smit McPhee and Chloe Muretz, both of whom are veteran child actors from last year’s The Road and this year’s silent hit Kick-Ass, respectively. Richard Jenkins portrays Abby’s (the vampire girl’s) Protector, who takes it upon himself to pull off a string of grisly murders to get blood for her. The guy has this sitcom-dad feel to him that’s really interesting to see as he takes that into these brutal scenes, giving you the true feeling he’s just as quick to panic as the people he strangles and buries. Elias Koteas plays the film’s villain (?), who is continuously pursuing the two and trying to figure out exactly what’s happening. He almost exists as a narrator to the film and a reference point for when things get hectic. A lot of people already love the story on display here, and it’s considered by many as a masterpiece in its own right. As you might imagine this brings some to wonder why it even needs an American remake. I’ll admit I’ve never seen the original (although I hope to see it in the near future), and therefore I can’t compare the two. However, if this film is anything like the original, I can see why they love the film so much. Much like Fincher’s The Social Network, this isn’t a film with one simple premise. Possibly the best part of the film revolves around the idea that while this is a movie about terrifying vampire attacks and these dark, mature elements coated in the random but shocking violent outburst, it’s also concerning this romance going on between these two kids that’s played off as sweet as a Sunday morning comic strip. It all goes towards making the film more effective when you see what could be a great love story, only to be snapped back in reality when blood gets drawn, people get killed, and you get to peer into Owen’s mental health that’s just about to snap. As my friend put it leaving the theater, “that beats Twilight by a long shot!” I had wished they had delved a little bit deeper into the mythology of the film, but the film stands at a comfortable 2 hour running time.
As it was just stated, there are a lot of different emotions that are on display here like sweetness, but also crippling fear thanks to Reeves’ impeccable direction. It’s hard not to get caught up the precious nature of these two 12 year old kids doing everything two adolescent lovers would shy of passing a note with two boxes marked with “girlfriend” or “friend”. You’ll catch yourself saying “aww” just before being shoved back into moments of fear, almost as if someone flipped a light switch. Reeves has a great feel for putting these scenes on display that will have you cringing in your seat. Sure, moments where Abby jumps out at the screen or other shocking scenes will have you jumping out of your seat in classic horror fashion, but the movie really shines once all of the movie’s more subtle moments start to sink in. Reeves uses silence and withholds information to really drive home a few sequences, and other times goes in full throttle and it seems things couldn’t get any worse or more chaotic. Better yet, Reeves lets some moments get at you mentally as you start to consider what’s going on in these characters’ heads. There’s one moment in the film where Owen is gasping for life underwater that made me feel as if I was drowning. Much like Cloverfield, Reeves’ style, more specifically his shooting style, makes for some of his best scenes and proof of his filmmaking skill. Cloverfield was known for its shaky-cam moments, and during Let Me In he does something really unique during scenes inside cars, placing the camera in the back of the vehicle and keeping it there. It may sound like an effect that would go unnoticed, but it’s something that has a tremendous effect for the film. It gives every scene it’s used that extra padding to provide an unsettling sense of claustrophobia, limiting what you see on the chaos going on outside and immersing you in that fear. It’s worth mentioning also that although you may not notice it, any scene with both Owen and his mother doesn’t show his mother’s face, keeping the scene in a perspective of Owen. There are also a number of other great scenes that Reeves gets a great shot in, a few that would go unnoticed by many but for those interested in film they’re a pleasure to see in how he encompasses an entire location and frames all the film’s action, all the while doing some truly artsy stuff with the camera. This being a film that takes place in the 80s, Reeves doesn’t emphasize it too much, but takes advantage of it a few times with some of the characters’ clothing and some of the sets, including an inclusion of one of Former President Ronald Reagan’s famous speech. As I start to wrap things up, I can’t recommend this movie to everyone. The movie’s incredibly unsettling, and by no means ends on a happy note. The first 30 minutes of the film doesn’t just dip your toes in the water to get you’re feet wet, it jumps in the water head first, leaving me to catch my breath. It was all a little too off-putting for me seeing throats slit and maliciousness pouring at the seems, but the film quickly finds its footing after about 20-30 minutes. This isn’t a New Moon spinoff even though it’s about kids; in fact while it does involve children it stands as one of the most disturbing movies I’ve seen this year. Much like a 13 year old I witnessed buying tickets for the movie, you’re child will have nightmares for weeks if you take them to see this one. Let Me In stands as one of my favorite films of the year, and while it can be a hard film to recommend, thanks to Reeves’ superb direction and artistic decisions, it’s sure to be a film you won’t be able to forget for some time, whether you like it or not.
4 out of 5
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