Monday, October 4, 2010

Let Me In (2010) – Review

Let Me In is a tonally rewarding experience encompassing elements of romance and horror (and let me just get this out of the way now: yes, I know it is a remake of Let the Right One In, and yes I have also seen that film, but no this review will not be about which is better or comparing the two – each is its own thing). This film succeeds mainly due to two key decisions that director Matt Reeves makes – 1) he does not shy away from the true nature of what Abby is (a vampire) and 2) he is not afraid to play scenes to be lighthearted and fun in what most would consider a horror film. Overall, the tone of the film is utterly bleak, and yet despite the fact that she is a killer, a monster or whatever scary thing that can be applied, the audience roots for her and the relationship that develops between Owen and her. In society she surely should be an antagonist, but she is not due to Reeves structuring the narrative to play like a romance film with terror, rather than a horror film that happens to also have some romance in it. The relationship between Owen and Abby is what the audience ultimately cares about and what makes everything in the film more powerful and meaningful to them, as they care about these characters and the outcome. The scenes in which Abby and Owen are just two kids experiencing young love are really what sets this film aparts and makes the viewer take a deeper more rooted interest in these characters. These scenes allow them to become real, as the audience can relate. Plus the genius of this is that the viewer forgets for a moment that Abby is a killer and that their relationship is doomed. The film is very violent and is not bashful about it. The juxtaposition between the romance scenes (especially those just referenced) between Abby and Owen and the scenes of Abby feeding and killing is intense and emotionally striking. But something sort of interesting happens in the film – the abuse that Owen receives at school from the bully becomes more personal and extreme for the viewer than the stylized vampire violence. The truly scary part of the film is watching how mean and brutal these kids are to one and other. Abby does not seem evil to Owen, because he is alone in the world and the bullies are really his true perception of evil. He is traumatized by them, and not by her or what he sees her do. Abby takes an interest in him when no one else does. His parents are disconnected from him, he has no friends; he is completely detached from humanity, craving connection. Thus, it only makes sense that he would be attracted to Abby, she talks to him, cares about him – and this translates directly to why the audience roots for them and why the film works overall. The most blaring issue with the film is that the effects are not that great. They were probably stylized by Reeves to look the way they do – disjointed and strange. However, they are too odd and thus pull the viewer out of the narrative for a moment. But the rest of the film is solid and thus this is a minor complaint (at least for me). Let Me In is seemingly a tragic love story, but even so it  draws us in and makes us care about these two characters despite the malice that surrounds them, making for an enthralling cinema experience full of tension (and I also love the fact that it is set in the 80’s and all the goodness that comes from that).

Technical achievements: Matt Reeves proves himself a fine writer-director with this film, as he is able to structure and pace the film in such a way to fully affect the audience and engross them in the story. Director of photography Greig Fraser does a good job matching the look of the film to the tone – it is cold and comfortless. All the color seems to be gone from the world, and yet the scenes between Abby and Owen seem brighter. Ford Wheeler’s production design is also a contributing factor to the feel of the film as well (I love his set for Abby’s apartment). But it is Michael Giacchino’s excellent score (one of my favorites of the year) that gives the film the perfect emotional backdrop to fully engage the audience. Reeves also did a fantastic job of casting the film. Adults were very much secondary – and it is clear that this was conscious choice made. Richard Jenkins (as usual) was good but in limited work – which could be said for all the adult actors. The young cast was also quite good, but three stood out: Dylan Minnette’s school bully was maybe the most terrifying thing in a movie about a vampire. Kodi Smit-McPhee is able to utterly capture Owen and portray his sadness and loneliness. And, Chloe Grace Moretz is perfect as Abby (her second great performance of the year), a monster but sweet and caring (and also scary). This film easily could have just been another unneeded remake or shoddy horror film that pollute Hollywood cinema, but due to the skill and care of the cast and crew the film is a well made horror romance that is among the best of the year.

Let Me In has the violence, the scares and the mood of a great horror movie, but its structure and performances distinguish it as a fine film. 8/10

No comments:

Post a Comment