"Let Me In" Review — 5 out of 5 stars
Thu, 30 Sep 2010 09:01:02
Chloe Moretz Videos
One line in Let Me In sums up the entire film, but it isn't actually uttered by a member of the stellar cast. In the middle of the movie, the camera focuses on a small TV screen with Ronald Reagan giving a speech. Reagan says, "There is sin and evil in the world." Let Me In is about that evil in its purest, most unadulterated form.
Abby—Chloe Moretz in an Oscar-worthy performance—is evil incarnate. She's a 12-year-old vampire with her claws firmly dug inside Owen, the equally fantastic Kodi Smit-McPhee. Abby preys on Owen slyly and subtlely until he's nothing more than a puppet for her. However, it's impossible not to feel bad for Abby, and that's because Moretz is so talented an actress that she can elicit sympathy for one of the most nefarious and malevolent characters in movie history. Abby 's a product of her environment. She's been a vampire for longer than she can remember, but Moretz adds a childlike innocence to her. She "likes puzzles" and Romeo and Juliet, but she kills someone nightly in brutal fashion. That's the dichotomy that few actresses three times Moretz's age could balance, but she does with ease.
The film's plot mirrors the 2008 Swedish version, Let the Right One In, but not to the point of copycatting. Let Me In is decidedly its own beast. Abby moves in next to Owen inside of a cramped New Mexico apartment complex. She lives with her caretaker—Richard Jenkins at his creepiest—and instantly takes a liking to Owen, even though she tells him, "I can't be your friend."
She may not be able to be his friend, but she certainly can manipulate him. Owen represents every downtrodden school kid who's the target of heartless bullies' ire. In one particularly gut-wrenching scene, his three tormentors attack him in the locker room and he urinates all over himself. The humiliation is painful, and McPhee plays disturbed and abused brilliantly. He can't stand up for himself. Director Matt Reeves shoots Owen's recently divorced mom completely out-of-focus. The only time the audience hears her speak is during the dinner prayer or reprimanding her son. Owen is disconnected from everything. He dons a clear mask and buys a knife, mocking stabbing in front of his mirror. He's filled with rage, but he has no place to put it and no medium to exorcise via. Then he meets Abby…
Abby needs blood, and her current "caretaker" is getting old and sloppy. One gruesome scene features him botching a murder and sliding down a snowy hill in the aftermath. Jenkins' character is essentially what Abby begins grooming Owen to be. In between chomping on Now and Later candy and solving a Rubik's cube, Abby tells Owen how to deal with his bullies. "You have to hit them back harder than you think you can," but she adds, "I'll help."
When Abby explodes, it's unforgettable and undeniably horrifying. She moves like a snake, snapping from sweet to demonic in an instant. In a small tunnel by the snowy apartment complex, she sits quietly sobbing when a neighbor begins talking to her. He picks her up, and then the switch flicks and she tears through his neck and bashes his head off the wall. The sounds, her hissing and the blood-sucking aren't sexy True Blood fare or sappy Twilight bullshit. This is a satanic godless vampire that'll stop at nothing to serve her own needs. Reeves emphasizes that with a visceral and violent exposition. He doesn't shy away from showing blood and guts, but he allows Moretz to act human. That's the most terrifying aspect of this film—how quickly Abby switches from a timid little girl into an uncompromising killer.
As more people turn up dead in the neighborhood, a policeman [Elias Koteas] begins to get suspicious. After another botched murder, Jenkins is in the hospital, but he can't give any answers. Koteas plays the cop with a noir sensibility. He's on the trail of something he doesn't quite understand and by the time he figures it out; it's way too late. As a character actor, there's no one better and he adds a small bit of fleeting heroism into this world devoid of light.
Every aspect of this film works. The performances are enchanting. The direction is second to none. It's like slipping into a nightmare that you don't want to leave. There's something gratifying about Owen and Abby's revenge, but it's still sick and twisted at the same time. There is evil in the world for sure, and no recent film explores it like this. Hands-down one of the best films of the decade.
Will you be seeing Let Me In?
Read our interview with Chloe Moretz here!