Matt Reeves' remake of Swedish filmmaker Tomas Alfredson's atmospheric vampire thriller — both of which are based on John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel Let the Right One In — is not as restrained or as poetic as its predecessor, but Let Me In's nuanced take on the genre generates unexpected empathy for its central duo in near equal measure.
A loner with a Rubik’s Cube and a penchant for grown-up Pop songs, Owen (The Road's Kodi Smit-McPhee) spends his evenings wandering around his Arizona apartment complex’s snow-covered outdoor play area where he dreams of enacting revenge on the school bully. One night, seemingly out of nowhere, the gaunt, barefooted Abby (Kick-Ass' Chloe Moretz) appears. The awkward pair bonds when Abby reveals that she’s also 12, “more or less,” and it becomes clear they have similar issues with the parents (or lack thereof) in their lives.
Comparisons to Alfredson's excellent earlier version are impossible to suppress, but Reeves — whose previous film was the crafty and underrated Cloverfield — makes Let Me In his own, tweaking the setting and various narrative elements with surprising effectiveness. Best of all is an immersive mid-film car crash that not only exceeds its predecessor but is also one of the more visceral cinematic sequences in recent memory.
While Smit-McPhee and most of the supporting cast (which includes Richard Jenkins and Elias Koteas) are stellar, Moretz doesn't quite possess the emotional depth (or haunted eyes) that her Swedish doppelgnger (the raven-haired Lina Leandersson) brought to a role that requires a certain organic pathos to fully penetrate. Still, Let Me In makes nearly every other vampire-based project of recent vintage look toothless by comparison.
The plush Blu-ray edition includes a thoughtful commentary track from Reeves, who's now cemented his status as a filmmaker to watch. Grade: B