Cynical Optimist : Let Me In = Wow!

Director Matt Reeves’ latest film, ”Let Me In”, is based on the novel ”Let the Right One In” by John Ajvide Lindqvist and the Swedish film adaptation of the same name. It tells the story of a 12-year-old boy (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee) who develops a friendship with a vampire (Chloe Moretz) in a New Mexico town in the early ’80s.

John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel is an endearing coming-of-age story that is so unique and exceptional it defies classification. The novel is also quite unique in the fact that it has not one, but two, faithful film adaptations. Like director Tomas Alfredson, Matt Reeves (”Cloverfield”) has created a masterful love story that manages to be sweet, tender and truly horrifying.

The ensemble of actors brought together for Let Me In is astounding. First you’ve got Kodi Smit-McPhee, who is simply heartbreaking in every film he’s in. If you’re reading this review and you haven’t seen Kodi’s performance in John Hillcoat’s 2009 film, ”The Road”, then stop reading – go see ”The Road” – then come back and finish up.

Richard Jenkins (”The Visitor”) and Chloe Moretz (”Kick-Ass”) come in a two-for-one package. Jenkins plays Moretz’s companion, assigned with tasks such as collecting blood for the 12-year-old vampire. It’s quite clear that Jenkins’ character loves the vampire dearly and will do anything for her.

Of course when Jenkins commits a string of rather sloppy murders, a policeman (Elias Koteas, ”Zodiac”) steps in to investigate the killings. Koteas continues to prove how great of an actor he is. And here I thought he was just Casey Jones in ”’Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”. Boy, was I wrong.

These four actors create a dynamic that goes way beyond anything in Alfredson’s 2008 film. Where that film tended to meander (when not dealing directly with the the love story), Reeves’ solidifies this modern day Romeo and Juliet with a solid sub-plot involving the Policeman’s investigation of the murders.

To compare the two movies, however, is completely pointless. In the end, they are both adaptations of a novel – and both adaptations show fond appreciation of the source material without adding insult. Obviously, as an American who grew up in the ’80s, I can find more to relate to in Reeves’ film – but the themes and emotions at work are universal.

Personally, I wish I wouldn’t have seen Alfredson’s film so I could have walked into ‘Let Me In” with no presumptions or prior knowledge of the story and how it would play out. Strangely enough, Reeves’ version is a different experience that still offers suspense, horror and sweet sentimentality even if you’ve already enjoyed the Swedish film.

To ignore this movie just because it’s an Americanized remake would be a mistake. At the end of the day, it is a great story – and stories deserve to be told over and over again, and sometimes they must be altered to reach different audiences and resonate.

With ”Let Me In”, Matt Reeves has successfully told a story that appeals to my generation and cultural background. And if anything, this film will introduce a wider audience to Alfredson’s 2008 film and ‘Lindqvist’s novel – carrying on a tradition of great storytelling, and that’s never a bad thing.