Who's In It: Chloe Grace Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Richard Jenkins, Dylan Minnette, Elias Koteas, Sasha Barrese, Cara Buono, Ritchie Coster
The Basics: Twelve-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) lives a lonely life in Los Alamos, New Mexico circa 1983; he's got no friends, he's bullied at school, and his parents are too busy going through a divorce to notice his escalating desperation. Enter Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz), a mysterious new neighbor girl who walks barefoot in the snow and solves Rubik's cubes … and just happens to be a bloodthirsty vampire. But as Owen and Abby grow closer, a local cop (Elias Koteas) starts piecing together the truth about Abby and her guardian (Richard Jenkins), threatening what little happiness the two have found with each other.
What's The Deal: John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel Let the Right One In had already been adapted into an excellent feature film by Swedish filmmaker Tomas Alfredson in 2008 -- so why remake it yet again, just two years later? Answer: Because more English-speaking fans will buy tickets to the subtitle-free American version. (Reading is just so hard!) Regardless of how you feel about the motivations behind making this new adaptation, this much must be said: Let Me In, directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield), is hauntingly gorgeous and evocative in its own way. The central performances are particularly solid, startlingly so in the case of Smit-McPhee's turn as the naïve, trusting Owen. The problem is, even forgiving its handful of wrong-headed choices (an unnecessary framing device, jarring CG effects, a distractingly bombastic score by Michael Giacchino), Let Me In never achieves the single most important thing that it needed to: it doesn't justify its own existence.
When It Gets Things Right: Whenever Let Me In actively distinguishes itself from its predecessor, albeit in subtle strokes. Period details -- arcades, pop tunes, clothing -- create a more specific sense of time and place, each element carefully chosen to subconsciously support the film's narrative (Owen plays Ms. Pacman, a game in which a female evades and devours her enemies, while Culture Club's "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" plays in the background). The film's best sequence is one that doesn't occur in the original: A visceral car chase shot from inside the vehicle that marks a pivotal point in the story and, more importantly, hints at the movie Let Me In could have been had Reeves not made his version so similar to the original.
Besides Being A Shot-For-Shot Remake Of A Perfectly Good Foreign Film, What Feels Most Wrong About Let Me In: The CG-enhanced speed ramping and grotesque facial effects Reeves uses to depict Abby's monstrous side. The overdone score by Giacchino, as big and dissonant and ominous as if a smoke monster was about to zoom into every scene. The overt explanation of a key relationship, left for viewers in the original Swedish film to infer on their own, which is here spelled out plainly as if American audiences would be too dense to get it.
The Jingle That'll Stick In Your Head: "Eat some now, save some for later," sung absent-mindedly by Owen. Is it a subtle clue that Abby's a much smarter and more calculating creature than she seems? That hint of a suggestion is the one thing that Let Me In keeps deliciously ambiguous.