There is a certain type of horror movie that says something special about the nature of being different. “Let Me In” gives it a brave go and features wonderful work with light and darkness, literally and figuratively. For me, it just misses the mark of brilliance by trying to tackle too much about America and lingering just a little too long on the bits betweeen the rivers of gore.
The original Swedish film – translated as “Let The Right One In” in 2008 – jarred in that edgy dreamy way that Scandinavian movies get just right. I didn’t love it as much as the friends I saw it with did. But it enhanced a great evening and the conversation about it flowed as freely as the wine.
Matt Reeves directed “Cloverfield”, which I found tolerable and amusing, but no more. I just didn’t care about any of the actors in that and fervently wished they would all die just a little more quickly than they eventually did. They whined. I didn’t want survivors.
These characters are a great deal more endearing. Kodi Smit-McPhee of “The Road” plays Owen, who is being bullied at school. He meets Abby, Chloe Grace Moretz from “Kickass”. He is 12 and yearning to be older and stronger while she has been 12 for “a very long time”. He asks if she is a vampire but she replies “she needs blood”.
Heck, so do you and me, right, but we normally settle for the pints already in our bodies. Abby has a more vampire-like need.
It is set in 1983 Los Alamos, New Mexico and Ronald Reagan’s speeches are on the television in the early scenes. Of course, you think of the Manhattan Project and you are aware this is the home of the atom bomb. Maybe you are blessed and don’t think about all that – maybe you didn’t know – but Los Alamos has a particular shame and pride for Americans of my age and that informs this film.
The Reagan years played a particular role in reclaiming American pride in nationhood. Yet it seems that the price to be paid was ahead. The swagger melted into the horror of 9/11 and the stuffing was knocked out of American pride. Reagan was known as the Great Communicator, but the former actor left a very mixed-up legacy.
Kodi and Chloe are excellent in this film and you do believe these young people will be stars. The grown ups are all rather hopeless. Elias Koteas is a wonderful actor and a fellow Montrealer, but he is wasted here. There is the nuisance of the mother who is enmeshed in divorce and does not understand her son – such a cliche in American film – and to add insult to injury, there is the estranged father who just does not empathise with anyone. Yawn.
Owen is a bit of a voyeur with his telescope and Abby has found a grown up to protect her. There are some interesting hospital scenes and a very good fire and a stunning car crash. There are very good uses of flashbacks. Chills exist, but they only last for fleeting moments.
Should you see it? The mostly young Stratford Picture House audience seemed to enjoy it and there was sporadic clapping at the end. The 1980s music – Culture Club, Cyndi Lauper and a haunting score – feels absolutely right. Even the school bullying rings true.
In the end, I just didn’t care very much. It all ends satisfactorily, but the early promise is squandered. It passed the time, but its two hour plus length goes on just a little bit too long. I don’t hate it, but I won’t be buying the DVD or looking for it on television. It’s okay but you will not be moved by it.