Who's In It: Chloe Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas
The Basics: A shy, bullied middle school boy in snowy Los Alamos, New Mexico, 1983, befriends a strange girl with some very weird habits--like going barefoot in frozen temperatures and only showing her face at night--and the two embark on a quietly disturbing almost-courtship that involves him discovering her true blood-drinking needs. Meanwhile, her naturally malevolent advice gives him the confidence he needs to start hitting back when the bullies come around to deliver atomic wedgies and attempted drownings. But don't call it a Twilight bandwagon jumper, it's just the American remake of the haunting 2008 Swedish arthouse hit Let The Right One In.
What's The Deal: There was no good reason for this movie to exist beyond a lazy American disinterest in subtitles. But having said that, it's pretty great on its own. The stuff that made the original Swedish version so spooky and special has been left intact. No one shoehorns in a heartfelt speech about friendship and the chilling finale is left alone with no softening tweaks to make it more palatable, either physically or psychologically. In fact, it may be the most unsentimental depiction of childhood isolation American movies have delivered in a long time. Its heart may be yearning but heartwarmth is (mostly, wisely) left alone.
Minor Annoyances: The original was more removed, much more eerily quiet, and it created an unease you could feel at all times. This is louder, with more crashing, slamming and banging, and many more music cues. The gruesome killings are front and center instead of 50 paces away from the lens, and the strangely sexual element has been toned down. Meanwhile, this victimized American boy is less obsessed with the idea of murder than his Swedish counterpart, and he's pointedly more lost and alone. It's small stuff, designed to give American audiences more of a hook into the weirdness, but I always get irritated by those little changes that always feel, to me, like the movie's decided you're not quite sophisticated enough and might need your hand held.
Children And Their Careers, Part One: When the actor and the role fit so well together, it can be hard to know where the work begins and ends, especially with most child actors. That's the thing with both of these kids. Their mutual presence here feels effortless, almost like they both really are these characters. It doesn't hurt that Kodi Smit-McPhee has already been the damaged, easily upset kid in The Road and Chloe Moretz was a freaky adultish Hit Girl in Kick-Ass and is also about to be Emily the Strange. In other words, their management should make sure they don't both get typecast and painted into an acting corner. It's still early, obviously, but it's never too late to branch out and take control like those Fanning kids.
Hammer, the legendary British horror studio, produced this film, the first one they've done in about 30 years.