Monday, December 12, 2016


So, here we go with the next installment of our new series DEAD OF WINTER, where we explore through new reviews the best winter themed horror films. Today I'm tackling a film that I'd just as quickly hold up as a perfect example that not all remakes suck as I would THE THING or THE FLY; it's 2010's LET ME IN, starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Richard Jekins, Cara Buono, and Elias Koteas.

Before you roll your eyes and yell at me for not reviewing the original, let me direct you to another excellent review of both the original LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and LET ME IN, by one of our recent guest posters, Albert Muller. He wrote an impassioned piece about both films that is absolutely fantastic and you can read it HERE. I agree with every word of his review right down to slightly preferring the remake over the original for personal reasons. Additionally, for the purposes of this series, to review both on the heels of Muller's piece teeters on overkill. LET ME IN was already at the top of my list for this series before I read Muller's and I chose to not cut it, because of how highly I regard the film and how much I wanted to write about it too. I think there's enough room in the world for heaping piles of praise on a good movies anyway.

Ok! Onward!

Directed by Matt Reeves, who loved both the original film and the book it was based on, LET ME IN
was an honest and impassioned attempt to re-adapt the book with cues from the original movie and set it in a small town in New Mexico. The characters' names were Americanized and the actors were asked not to watch the original film before shooting. The effect, while not too far from the original, made for a deeply personal, beautiful, and truly creepy film. The cynics among us may cry that the re-make didn't change enough, but I disagree. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, as wonderful and engrossing as it is, has an emotional detachment that LET ME IN doesn't have. That may be a simple cultural disconnect with me, but I related more to Smit-McPhee's Owen than I did with Kare Hedebrant's Oskar, because I was Owen. I was a bullied little loner in a small American town in the 1980s.

LET ME IN, at heart, is a coming of age story of friendship between two outsiders. The vampire angle adds that level of tension and visual interest that sets the movie apart from a normal character drama. It's rarely excessive, even in an intense attack scene where we see Abby (Moretz) attack and kill a man in a tunnel-which is one of the film's most startling moments- Reeves is able to ramp up the tension with subtly, where most horror films would take the viewer into more visceral territory. Not that the film is lacking blood and gore, it's just doled out in a methodical pace, making those scenes more horrific, where they could have been cartoonish.

LET ME IN is such a lovely, slow burn descent into both friendship and the horrors the world lays
out for children. Smit-McPhee and Moretz fully embody the outsider, misfit, weirdo, that a lot us were/are. As I said, I was Owen and in a way Abby represents the books and movies that I fell in love with, that got me through my youth and gave me a reason to keep going, keep getting up, regardless of the bullying that I had waiting on me at school-hell, at home too. Abby does horrible things, she's a monster, but she's also Owen's friend. She provides him comfort and fills that void of loneliness. That's what Stephen King, Clive Barker, Wes Craven, and John Carpenter did for me with their work. I don't know that John Lindqvist intended his book, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, to be a metaphor for horror nerds, but I see it as that. And the final bloodbath, when Abby makes all of Owen's bullies pay for their transgressions-that wasn't too far from what I wanted to do the kids at school who knocked me down in the hall, smacked my books out of my hands, called me faggot, ruined my lunch, made me afraid to go into the bathroom, ganged up and beat the shit out of me...I would have laughed to see them ripped to shreds and I'm not a violent person.

The winter setting itself is almost a character in the film. Every out door shot really telegraphs just how frigid it is and may also be seen as a metaphor for Owen's life. Especially, the frozen loneliness of the playground at night where he encounters Abby. Before she appears to him, Owen is like the moon, alone in the cold darkness (Muller also notes a reference to the moon, just pointing that out lest one thinks I lifted an idea). Reeves and company did a great job with the setting and bringing the winter chill into the audiences' theater/home. I've rarely found a movie so engrossing that even the sets can trigger emotions and physical reactions.    


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