In game three of the 1932 World Series, Babe Ruth stood at home plate, paused to listen to the jeers of the home team, pointed his bat at the bleachers of Wrigley Field to call his shot and then proceded to hit a home run. It wasn't the 440-foot drive that turned that particular at-bat into such a memorable moment of baseball history, it was the sheer theatricality of it. Or, depending on your outlook, the sheer arrogance. Either way it was an impressive feat.
In 2008, Swedish filmmaker Tomas Alfredson pointed his cinematic bat at John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel 'Let The Right One In,' which as far as vampire fiction goes is the equivalent of pointing to the bleachers. He swung for the fences and film fans the world over loved Alfredson for delivering a touching, horrifying tale of a young boy who befriends a not-so-young, not-so-human girl that proved to be a home run for vampire fiction during a time when it the genre needed it most.
In 2010, filmmaker Matt Reeves ('Cloverfield') did the exact same thing. He wanted to share Lindqvist's magic with a wider American audience by remaking 'Let The Right One In' as 'Let Me In.' Fans the world over jeered as Reeves took the plate and pointed to the very same bleachers another filmmaker had targeted barely two years earlier. And the mass derision was understandable: Remaking 'Let The Right One In,' on the face of it, seemed pointless. Or, depending on your outlook, it seemed downright arrogant.
Well, surely to the dismay of those jeering the loudest, Reeves not only hit a home run, he rocketed it out of the park: 'Let Me In' is an astounding accomplishment for all involved and one of the best horror films of the year.
Kodi Smit-McPhee is Owen, a boy troubled at home by his parents separation and at school by a trio of bullies (led by Dylan Minette) who have nothing better to do. Chloe Moretz is Abby, Owen's new neighbor and resident secret keeper. Trouble is, Abby, despite looking Owen's age, isn't a normal girl. She needs blood to survive and she relies on her "father" (Richard Jenkins) to harvest it for her by any means possible. Naturally, by any means possible eventually leaves behind a body count that attracts the attention of a local policeman (Elias Koteas). The story that unifies each of these individuals is as affecting as it is horrifying.
Obviously a lot of that has to do with the strength of the source material, but 'Let Me In' wouldn't be anywhere near the triumph it is without everyone involved's thorough reverence for, and understanding of, their roles. The amount of wounded optimism young Smit-McPhee gives Owen is astonishing; Moretz's ability to reflect a soul that's both ancient and juvenile is remarkably refreshing; Jenkins sells aching desperation like he patented it as a commodity; Koteas nails the in-over-his-head cop; but those actors have all previously shown that they can deliver standout performances time after time. The biggest discovery here is Minette. Most will recognize him as Jack Shephard's son in the final season of 'Lost', but his performance as a pay-it-forward bully is eerily intimidating.
Matching the caliber of the on-screen performances is Reeves' behind-the-scenes command. With 'Let Me In' he's combined worlds and genres that should by their very nature never co-exist. He's successfully married a coming-of-age story with a horror movie; a horror movie with a procedural investigation; and a procedural investigation with a heartbreaking/heartwarming web of relationships. And he does it all with a style that gives the film measured doses of pulse-pounding spectacle without ever sacrificing the intimate nature of its storytelling.
The only time that Reeves' knack for theatricality gets in the way is in regards to Abby's frenzied movement when she's in full-on vampire mode. On the one hand, the unpredictable yet powerful nature of her attacks does reflect the caged animal nature of her affliction, but on the other hand it just does not fit the mood. Much like the distracting CGI cat attack in Alfredson's film (which is wisely absent here), these clearly digital flourishes detract more than they add.
A few fleeting moments of special effects that look anachronistic for the otherwise meticulous recreation of the 1980s are hardly enough to subtract from the myriad of wins Reeves ushers in from other departments. And as far as the inevitable comparing of 'Let Me In' to 'Let The Right One In' goes, there a number of different areas in which Reeves actually improves upon Alfredson's prior adaptation. It's an all around darker film, especially where the character of "the father" is concerned (his attempts at getting blood are even more gripping here.) Not only does the film have a richer look thanks to Greig Fraser's cinematography, but a superior score thanks to Michael Giacchino. His composition is equal parts requiem and rally cry for the fate of Owen and Abby's relationship and it's only further proof that Giacchino is one of the best composers working in the industry today.
So, yes, 'Let Me In' is a remake of a novel that required no remake, but don't let that fool you: 'Let Me In' is worth every bit the love that 'Let The Right One In' rightfully earned and then some. There isn't a single thing about it that is diminished just because someone else got to the material first.