By MARK TURNER
The past few years the vampire film has changed from what began as a horrifying creature to a seductive animal, followed by more creatures and finally with the TWILIGHT films a vampire more interested in seduction than, say, draining blood. All that changed with a wel-received Swedish film called LET THE RIGHT ONE IN.
As with most movies that have success that come from foreign markets, Hollywood made the decision to remake it as an English language film in the hopes of attracting a wider audience. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. For me, this one works and works well. And for viewers who would rather not follow subtitles this movie should do the trick.
Directed by CLOVERFIELD director Matt Reeves it’s not so much a remake of the movie as it in an interpretation of the book. Reeves has gone on to say that he spoke with the author and found that his take on the book was what the author was attempting to discuss which was going through the awkward teen years set in a vampire story. It clicks here and Reeves does a great job.
Set in Los Alamos, New Mexico, we find ourselves in the midst of winter. Young Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a small boy prone to being bullied while at school. Living with his mother (a woman trapped in her own problems with a failed marriage, devout religious follower and alcoholic in training) Owen leads a lonely life. There are no other kids in their apartment complex and he spends most of his time sitting on the frozen playground outside in the snow. Until a new neighbor shows up.
Rarely seen this new neighbor moves into the apartment next door and at times Owen can hear conversations through the walls. The only person he sees is an older man (Richard Jenkins) who goes in and out of the apartment. Then one night Owen meets Abby (Chloe Moretz) who lets him know up front that they can’t be friends. But friends they do become.
Owen confides in her about the bullying at school. She advises him to just take the bully on up front, that he’ll back down once Owen lets himself stop being pushed around. She also lets him know that if need be she’ll be there to back him up.
What Owen doesn’t know is that Abby is a vampire. The man she lives with isn’t really her father but the man who takes care of her, supplying her with fresh blood that he extracts from victims he kills and then drains. When a draining goes wrong, Owen can hear two voices arguing, neither of which sounds like a child. Due to this accident, Abby is forced to go out and feed on her own.
Owen and Abby become close friends. Both lead lonely lives but find comfort in one another’s company. Each is the companion the other thought they’d never have. But would this be the case if Owen truly knew what Abby was?
While this story unfolds the police are searching for the savage killer on the streets. The bullies continue to give Owen a hard time as we wait to see if he calls their bluff. And the time draws near where we discover if Abby will reveal herself to Owen or not. And if she does, what will be his response?
The surface of this movie is a horror film with a few gory moments tossed in for those fans but a more horrifying tale that smolders beneath. It’s less about the attacks and bloodshed of the vampire and more about what it takes to survive, especially while being 12 years old for so long. Gone is the romantic adolescent version of vampirism and in its place a deeper story of what it’s like to be lonely in the middle of a world full of people.
Each actor does a fantastic job, most importantly the two young leads. For either of them to carry the weight and depth of their characters is something worth watching, for both of them to do so is amazing. Jenkins does a good job but is relegated to little in this film. And Elias Koteas as the detective searching for a killer does a tremendous job.
It seems that many horror fans have taken a liking to blood drenched horror that offers multiple mutilations these days. For those that like something to think about, that plays as much with your mind as it does your stomach, this is a movie that will whet your appetite. The pacing may be slow, but there’s a reason for that. This is a story that unfolds rather than slaps you in the face. And a good story at that.
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