GENRE: Character-driven horror flick
THE PITCH: In wintry 1983 Los Alamos, N.M., lonely young Owen (The Road's Kodi Smit-McPhee) befriends his new neighbor Abby (Kick-Ass's Chloe Moretz), unaware that she drinks blood to survive, with the help of her "father" (Richard Jenkins). Nobody's perfect.
MONEY SHOTS: An ambulance's emergency lights strobe through its windshield in the opening scene. We see a car rolling down hill from the point of view of a stationery camera in the backseat. In long shot, Abby scales a hospital wall. Owen strikes back at one of his bullies. Near the end, underwater images at an indoor swimming pool hint at grisly horrors (although the shot was better in the Swedish original).
NOT-ENOUGH-MONEY SHOTS: Cloverfield director Matt Reeves directed this, but the CGI effects during some of Abby's attacks look both fakey and unnecessary.
BEST LINE: Owen asks Abby how old she is, and she replies, "12. But I've been 12 for a long time."
BEST REPURPOSED LINE: An early scene embellishes the ominous tone with a President Reagan speech in the background: "There is sin and evil in this world. ... America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good ..." and then ends, as if the movie provides the end of the sentence.
BODY COUNT: Eleven, if you count a vampirized victim who "dies" twice. Self-inflicted acid burns leave one character monstrously disfigured. Abby's calm while being splattered in blood may be the most disturbing images.
POP REFERENCES: A local Quik-E-Mart features Pac-Man and Gorf, as well as a clerk sporting the Boy George look. Abby solves a Rubik's Cube, the squares of which find a visual echo in the monkey bars where they meet. The name of Owen's favorite candy, Now and Laters, may wink at Abby's longevity. For some heavy-handed symbolism, Owen studies Romeo and Juliet and watches the Franco Zeffirelli adaptation at school.
SOUNDTRACK HIGHLIGHTS: David Bowie's "Let's Dance" repeatedly plays on background radios. Blue Oyster Cult's "I'm Burnin' For You" hints at the nature of Owen and Abby's relationship — and will get stuck in your head.
DOES IT ECLIPSE TWILIGHT? Compared to Twilight franchise's vision of vampire/human relations as height of true love, Let Me In more powerfully depicts a friendship that's touching, unconditional and inevitably doomed, with dark implications for the long run.
BETTER THAN THE ORIGINAL? Not quite. Swedish director Tomas Alfredson objected to the idea of a remake, but Reeves clearly respects the content, tone and plot outline of the original, and adds little except for effective American period color and some weak monstery effects. If you have not (or will not) seen the Swedish version, Let Me In will haunt you.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Like a mix of the undead and Ang Lee's The Ice Storm, Let Me In presents the alienation of latchkey children of divorce, and Owen suffers from high school thugs far more passionate about persecuting him than grown-ups are about caring for him. Smit-McPhee and Moretz's performances make Let Me In one of the most unexpectedly affecting love stories of 2010.
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