I have to say at the start of this review that I never 1) read the book this film is based on, nor 2) saw the original Swedish version, either. In other words, I went into this as a virgin, someone who was excited to see it based solely on trailers and the word-of-mouth of a very good friend.
And I was so not disappointed.
Let Me In, directed by Matt Reeves, is the story of Owen, a lonely twelve-year-old growing up in New Mexico in the early 1980s. He lives with his divorced mother in a run-down apartment complex and is a learned, if youthful, voyeur, using his telescope to spy on their neighbors whenever possible. He is constantly picked on at school and is all in all a rather depressed and possibly psychologically damaged child. He has no real relationship with his mother (as shown in the film by the fact we never get a clear shot of her face), and his father is distant, in both geography and emotion.
Owen’s mood brightens, however, when Abby, a mysterious girl around his own age, moves into the apartment next door with her “father.” She is a peculiar girl, seemingly opposed to the concept of footwear, and her late-night rendezvous with Owen in the complex playground serve to pique our young, despondent hero’s interest. The two youngsters begin a relationship of sorts, delving steadily deeper into the secrets each of them keep hidden, until we start to realize that this adorable and strange little girl is most certainly not what she seems to be.
I said before that I was excited to see this movie, but I’ve found in the past that my excitement level is rarely met by the actual execution of said film. This one, however, is a welcomed exception.
There is nothing in this film I didn’t love. From the dank and dreary atmosphere to the heightened sense of mystery and inner turmoil every major character feels, the emotions of all are on display. Kodi Smit-McPhee is wonderfully somber as Owen, and Chloe Moretz absolutely shines as the more-than-she-seems Abby. In fact, this young actress completely steals the show. She is grave, reflective, and much more mature than her age suggests, which fits perfectly, especially when her true nature is revealed.
There is a good amount of blood and violence in this movie, but it’s used expertly so that it doesn’t overwhelm the viewer or become campy. When there is violence, it means something. The plot has something to say about lost innocence, as well. As we watch Abby’s past unravel, we grow to sympathize with her, even though she’s an entirely less-than-savory character. And that’s where the brilliance of the storytelling shines greater than ever. We see how this girl manipulates the situation, manipulates every relationship in her life, and by the end I found myself hoping Owen would just open his eyes, dammit! For as wonderfully innocent and sexually pure as their bond is, there’s a level of malevolence lurking right beneath the surface that, although we never really see it play out on screen, is still horrible.
In short, this is a fantastic film, possibly the best horror movie I’ve seen since The Descent. Moody and atmospheric, it captures your attention on the slow ride, watching as this unfortunate child confronts one fear and becomes the embodiment of another. It’s full of tremendous performances (and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Richard Jenkins, who has a small role as Abby’s “father,” a man who might know a thing or two of what Owen’s future holds.) and the special effects, though weak in spots, do their best to forward the plot, not overshadow it. I had a great time watching this, and actually sat around and discussed the movie with my wife for an hour or so afterward, which is usually only reserved for the best-of-the-best films.
I think you can see where I place this one, then.