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Movie Review: Let Me In

by Eric Melin on September 24, 2010

in Print Reviews

Where the spooky Swedish film “Let the Right One In” was set (like John Ajvide Lindqvist‘s novel) in an economically depressed apartment complex in early-80s Stockholm, the American remake “Let Me In” paints a similarly bleak picture, taking place in dreary suburban Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1983.

Writer/director Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”) goes further with the context, however. David Bowie’s slick and soulless “Let’s Dance” is the inescapable song heard on everybody’s headphones and Ronald Reagan is on the TV talking about Christian values and evil. The “Satanic panic” was a real thing back then, and a local policeman (Elias Koteas) is sure that a recent string of murders is the work of some sort of Satanic cult.

let-me-in-kiss-blood faceMeanwhile, a bullied 12-year-old named Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is dealing with parents in the middle of a divorce and his mother’s own religious fervor. He spends his time fantasizing about using a knife on his tormentor classmates and spying on his neighbors with a telescope.

Reeves also streamlines the plot of the original movie even further than the film did from the novel, concentrating the bulk of the story on the tender relationship that forms between outcast Owen and his mysterious new neighbor Abby (Chloe Moretz). Abby may not look as otherworldly as frail Lina Leandersson did in “Let the Right One In,” but Moretz seems mature beyond her years–which is essential to the film’s premise.

“Let Me In” doesn’t sport the stark, artfully framed widescreen images that marked its predecessor, but it makes up for it with other interesting stylistic choices. To further amplify Owen’s loneliness, his mother’s face is almost never shown. She’s either got her back turned or is framed from a medium-level camera position that puts her face just out of frame.

Shooting from this vantage point also helps us identify with Owen more. The film hinges on the fact that we see the world from Owen’s point of view. I’ll go even further and say that “Let Me In” feels personal, like Reeves spruced up the screenplay with some vivid memories from his own childhood.

Let-Me-In-rubiks cubeRichard Jenkins (Best Actor nominee for “The Visitor”) gives the creepy character of Abby’s fifty-something protector a pathetic quality that’s rare, considering what he does to keep her safe. With few lines and a small amount of screen time, Jenkins does a lot with a little and its a credit to Reeves that the ambiguous nature of he and Abby’s relationship is preserved to the same level as the original.

Overall, Reeves should be credited with making a film that doesn’t at all subscribe to the kind of over-explaining found in most American horror movies. By concentrating almost exclusively on the eerily strong bonds that childhood can create and virtually ignoring the adult world altogether, he leaves the details a little bit gray.

In some instances, Reeves improves upon “Let the Right One In” by staging a couple of scenes with more suspense (but again, not going overboard as the U.S. trailers might suggest). One in particular begins with a comical amount of desperation from Jenkins and carries that misfortune through to its (one would think) non-cinematic end. Instead, it goes from squirmy uncomfortable to terrifying in a second.

let-me-in knife maskOn the other hand, some of the memorable cinematic setpieces from the 2008 film (a figure moving silently up a hospital wall, a climactic pool scene) are rendered a little too faithfully. Sure, they worked perfectly the first time, but couldn’t they have been tweaked a bit more? (Then again, fans who wanted “faithful” would be crying foul!)

It’s a funny feeling, watching a film that so closely resembles “Let the Right One In” (which was #4 on by Best Movies of 2008 list). Before I saw the movie, I was ready to deem it “unnecessary.” If anything, it just proves that this twisted little tale of childhood alienation works across cultures.

Reeves made “Let Me In” relevant to its time period and locale, kept a creepy tone throughout, and guided some truly affecting performances from his actors. I’m curious to hear how people who haven’t seen the original react to this strange and stirring tale.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes for The Pitch. He’s former President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls, Ultimate Fakebook, and Truck Stop Love . He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 mc2812 September 24, 2010 at 2:49 am

Great review. I have read Lindqvist’s novel and absolutely love the story. Ive been following up on this film quite a bit lately and it looks as if Reeves has done an outstanding job (exclusive clips and interviews make it look very promising). Cant wait to see it even though I haven’t seen the Swedish original. I think I would rather see Reeve’s version first so as not to be making comparisons through the whole movie which could possibly hinder my experience. I ll make sure I watch Alfredson’s version after though.


2 JayhawkCSC September 24, 2010 at 9:41 am

Very interesting…thanks for the review Eric. I may end up seeing this after all. I agree with you that the original was one of my favorite movies of 2008, and did a complete facepalm when they announced this remake. Then when Reeves was attached to the project, I really was ready to lose it. Sounds like he may have just done a bang up job though.


3 Eric Melin September 24, 2010 at 9:52 am

It’s really tough to put my head in a space where I can review this movie objectively because I am so familiar with the first one and the book (which I just recently finished). All I can say is that this version works. (And by the way, no review is objective. Don’t believe those who claim to be.)


4 Demian September 24, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Glad to hear the remake is decent. We seem to screw up remakes of foreign horror movies with exception of “The Ring” which I liked as much as the original. Why we have to remake the originals is beyond me, I wonder what the other countries remakes of our movies are like;) Although bollywood has worst remakes of our movies.


5 Eric Melin September 24, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Demian- Yeah, the motive clearly is to make money. But that’s why Hollywood makes all its films. So I guess we have to look at the finished film–and this one is remarkable in its somber tone and downplayed gore, especially for a horror remake. If it was the first adaptation of the book, people would be heralding some kind of new movement in the genre, I believe.


6 Diego September 24, 2010 at 6:35 pm

I can’t wait to catch this on Oct.2. I know people were prepared to call out the film saying it was bad. But it turns out, Reeves handled the material well.


7 James September 26, 2010 at 7:22 pm

This is good to hear. I’ll probably check out The Social Network instead this next week, but I might try to Let Me In in the following week. Love the original, and I’m glad to hear the remake is quite good.


8 Eric Melin September 27, 2010 at 8:34 am

Admittedly, I thought it had a good chance of sucking. I’m overjoyed to have been proven wrong. as far as transposing the story to the U.S., I’m not sure that it could have been done better or more convincingly.


9 Trey Hock September 30, 2010 at 5:13 am

Eric is totally right Let Me In doesn’t suck. It is a nice remake, but the original is still noticeably better, apart from an incredibly well done car crash. Let Me In is for any person who might enjoy the original, but has difficulty with subtitled movies. It makes a nice second choice, but if you don’t mind a subtitled film, then stick with the Let the Right One In.


10 Phil Fava October 26, 2010 at 8:42 am

Trey – “Let Me In” had plenty of qualities that made it distinct from its predecessor and were either improvements (going slightly deeper into the vampire’s relationship with her familiar, for example, or making the bullies more sadistic) or interchangeably good alternatives. I actually found it much ballsier in a lot of places, and I think most of the trade-offs and exclusions were warranted.


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