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"Let Me In" Review

Film nerds gnashed their teeth in horror when it was announced that the pre-pubescent vampire movie Let The Right One In was being remade. "Stupid Americans won't read Swedish subtitles! Stupid Hollywood is gonna make the kids teenagers and have them be like Twilight! Stupid guy who made Cloverfield is going to film it in ShakyCamVision®! They won't be able to match the swimming pool scene! It's going to suck and be stupid! Waaaaah!!!" The casting of Kick-Ass's Chloe Moretz and footage shown at Comic Con eased some nerd fears, but doubts remained. Now that it's here, while reviews have been kinder, you still see the word "unnecessary" thrown around which is too bad because I found it more enjoyable and more than equal to the original. 

Writer-director Matt Reeves has set Let Me In in 1983 Los Alamos, NM and while there are several visual cues borrowed from the original like a snow-covered jungle gym in the apartment complex courtyard, it's clear that this is less a remake than an alternate take on the source novel. Thanks to Reeve's deliberate, tension-ratcheting direction which uses long lenses with shallow depth of field to isolate the subjects and amp up the isolation, this version feels more immediate without being too "Americanized" as the haters would say. (One notable detail is that we never really get to see Owen's mother - she's always out of focus, decapitated by the frame, or obscured by distance or obstruction.) 

It also helps that his youthful cast - Moretz and Dylan Minnette (who plays the bully and was Jack's son on Lost) are now 13, Kodi Smit-McPhee is 14 - are spot on in their performances with none of the "kiddie actor" tells. Moretz already had a fan club for her awesome turn as Hit Girl, but this cements her place in the Pantheon with freakishly precocious actresses Jodie Foster and Dakota Fanning. A lot of ADULT actors would choke on the subtleties these children portray without a lot of dialogue; very nice work all around. Richard Jenkins as the vampire's caretaker and an unrecognizable Elias Koteas as a police detective investigating the killings are also solid. 

 If there is one knock I can lay against this movie is the use of really bad CGI when Abby is in killing mode. Considering the seamless FX work in Reeves' last film, Cloverfield 

As I'm writing this a couple of days later, the movie has already bombed at the box office, opening 8th with $5.3 million, a shade behind dreck like the Case 39 and You Again. In a time where vampires are hot to the point of overexposed ubiquity, no one went to see the best, creepiest, and smartest take on vampires in ages. Was the movie marketed incorrectly? Did people think it was just another teeny-bopper vamp flick like the execrable (and obscenely lucrative Twilight series) and give it a miss - though how they could get that impression from the trailer escapes me - or did the Internet haters dissuade them from seeing it? (OTOH, Internet fanboyism didn't really put butts in seats for Snakes on a Plane, Serenity, or Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, so perhaps their influence is greatly overrated.)

 Score: 8.5/10. Catch a matinee. (I'll be buying the Blu-ray when it comes out.) 


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