I am so sick of sparkly, day walking, loving teenage vampires! Don’t get me wrong I have seen the Twilight movies, I see some value in them, but I tend to walk around with a number of horror writers and movie makers of horror. I have found few real vampire or horror fans that enjoy the bastardization of hundreds of years of legend and myth. I have my own theories as to why this is taking place, but for me, if there is going to be a retelling give me a Wes Craven version or even the HBO version of True Blood, but give me vampires if you are going to tell a vampire story.
In 2008 there was an award winning vampire, blood drinker story made into a Swedish movie titled, Let the Right One In, directed by Tomas Alfredson. I have to admit, I haven’t see that movie, but after seeing the American release of Let Me In, directed by Matt Reeves, I may have to go on a search to find it. Reeves brings an unusual telling of vampirism to the screen in a unique, yet refreshing, true to the legend and myth lore way. While there are challenges due to children being in the primary roles, one shouldn’t let that fool them, while children are involved, this is far more than a teenage, lovey dovy, story of pre-teen love. This is a vampire story intended for later teens who can deal with adult themes, and adults who enjoy good story and thought provoking themes more than blood, gore, and killing. Don’t get me wrong, those things exist in this movie, but the clear and obvious thing that drives Let Me In is story.
Let Me In is the story of a young boy going through difficulty in his life. His mother and father are separated and going through a divorce, he is bullied at school, and in desperate need of friendship. A young girl and her supposed father move into the low income apartment complex he lives in. Late one night as the boy, Owen, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee meets one of the new tenants, a young 12-year-old girl. Abby, played by Chloe Moretz, received critical acclaim for her role as the young foul mouthed avenger in Kick Ass. Abby has a secret Owen doesn’t know about. It doesn’t take the viewer long to figure out there is much more about Abby than one may first think. She tells Owen in one scene when asked how old she is, “I am 12, but I have been 12 for a long time.” Of course by then, we know why she gives this strange answer and while she never comes out and tells Owen that she is a vampire, it doesn’t take him long to figure it out. It is inevitable that things will soon start to go wrong as there are those who have been looking for Abby. As Abby and Owen develop a close friendship, the world seems to cave in around them. There is the intensity of not knowing what is going to happen next and the confusion of wondering what is going to happen next in the story. The story builds to an exciting ending where there is potential for the development of the story.
The advance trailers for Let Me In don’t do justice to the story. Unfortunately, I believe many will be drawn to the film expecting an edge of your seat thriller and not be prepared to deal with the unique and wonderful story that evolves. Let Me In is beautifully filmed and much is left to the imagination. While there are ample blood scenes, it is clear the special effects, gore, and blood drinking is not the focus. The critical component of this story is story. Much kudos has to be given to director Matt Reeves. Not since Brittany Murphy has a young actress been as mesmerizing and thoroughly skilled in her craft as the young Chloe Moretz. Reeves doesn’t just do wonders with Moretz though, he directs in such a way to bring about believable, incredible chemistry between her character, and the character of Owen played by Smit-McPhee. Using some incredible cinematography, a great and at times, funny soundtrack, Reeves gets as much out of his actors, primarily children as anyone in a long time.
One of the things the viewer is challenged with, as are the characters is the seeming recognition, at times dispute, and reality of God. We see a mother who is deeply religious, offering prayers for her child, yet, hiding in her own reality through with alcohol, and in her religion. She seems to think that religion provides all of the answers yet; she refuses to surrender to the teachings of religion that one would think is critical. She leaves her son alone most of the time and refuses to get involved in any serious level of his life. No matter how many photos of Jesus she has around her apartment, or how many times she prays before dinner, she has yet to give of herself to her son and his own problems. As a result, Owen questions the reality of evil and turns to friendship and love where he can find it. Abby is also lonely and a unique friendship develops. Owens’s father doesn’t really care about him either which is evidenced by his rejection to be there for his son. This Romeo and Juliet story resembles what many in real life have gone through.
I really liked this movie, the conversations that can come about; the story and maturity of how it is told. While having some first hand knowledge of working with children in film, I appreciate the direction by Reeves. While I believe many may be disappointed because it isn’t a Twilight style of movie and it isn’t as scary as the previews make it, it is a tremendous story that forces one to think about their own situations, the ways we hide from reality and ignore those who should be closest. It is a reminder of the need for friendship, and the ways some look for it, even if having to look in dangerous places. I also appreciated the way Let Me In forces us, the viewer to question what is evil, and what is good. There are no pat answers; in fact, the answers the viewer gets may come from different places with different conclusions. The answers are not always easy, they are there for the search though, if we allow ourselves to search in places we may have never considered. If willing to do that, we may be surprised at the conclusions we come to and those conclusions may help us be better people, with more fulfilled lives.
On a scale of 1 – 10, while not a perfect movie, in fact far from a classic, it is a very good, thought provoking retelling of vampires with some unique retellings, and some answers to questions some have asked for years, I give a resounding, thought provoking and enjoyable 8.
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