| IF YOU WANT TO DESTROY MY SWEATER VEST: Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz. |
IMAGE: Overture Films
Fanboys cried sacrilege when American director Matt Reeves announced a remake of Tomas Alfredson’s poetic vampire meditation, Let the Right One In. But Reeves proved an innovative terror craftsman with Cloverfield, and despite purists’ trepidation, an American redo could have breathed second life into the Swedish chiller. Trouble is, Reeves bleeds a great cautionary fantasy of emotional stimulation. Let Me In is by no stretch a bad film, but it’s torn between reverence to the original and staid desire to expand. The result is a blood-soaked Xerox copy that amps up excess in a story that thrives on minimalism.
As before, Let Me In revolves around bullied Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee of The Road) and the macabre friendship he strikes up when strange little girl named Abby (Kick-Ass Hit Girl Chloe Grace Moretz) moves in next door as the town’s mortality rate skyrockets. Capable performances by the young leads offer an emotional foundation, but where Let the Right One In focused on the effects of violence throughout a community, here we spend the majority of the time with the kids. Their playdates get pretty dull as Reeves seems obliged to wedge iconic scenes from the original into the story with little purpose.
While Reeves stumbles on reverence, he excels in deviation. He flirts with brilliance during a car wreck filmed from the vehicle’s interior as Abby’s “father,” a blood-collecting minion played by Richard Jenkins, goes hunting Los Alamos, N.M., for teens. Also invigorating is a subplot involving Elias Koteas as a cop trying to connect the bloodshed to the “Satanic Panic” that swept the country during the film’s time frame of 1983.
Reeves should have deviated more, especially with the novel’s author John Ajvide Lindqvist—whose book goes gleefully bonkers—guiding the screenplay. But he’s too focused on horror in a story that hinges on connections, not just between its characters, but between film and audience. The vagueness of Let the Right One In made it resemble a choose-your-own-adventure book in which destinies were limited by our imaginations. With Let Me In, fates are sealed within 25 minutes, and we simply anticipate the inevitable. Reeves sacrifices connection for obvious parallels and lackluster CGI vampire attacks. “I need blood…to live,” Abby asserts after chowing down a jugular aperitif. “No shit,” we half-expect Owen to respond. It’s a phrase most will mutter every time Reeves jettisons an elegant brushstroke for a paintball gun. R.