His cover claim that "Let Me In" represents "the best American horror film in the last 20 years" is high praise, but also overstating things. That's not to say there's anything wrong with the film, as it's a terrific tale. It's just that audiences paid it no attention upon its theatrical release. What has this country come to when the only vampire movies it will embrace are PG-13 tween/teen goo-goo-eye fantasies with no scares?
Written and directed by "Cloverfield" helmer Matt Reeves, the movie is a remake of Tomas Alfredson's smart, spectacular Swedish spooker of 2008, "Let the Right One In." For American audiences, Reeves' biggest change was to change the title to something less sounding like a "Hokey Pokey" lyric; all other elements remain fairly intact.
Kodi Smit-McPhee ("The Road") plays Owen, a lonely, bullied boy who lives with his single mom in a bleak apartment building. He has no friends until Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz of "Kick-Ass") moves in next door. She's a little weird, in that doesn't wear shoes in the snow and seems to materialize out of nowhere; in fact, she's a vampire. Charged with finding her nourishment is her surrogate father (Richard Jenkins, "The Visitor"). Despite Abby's taste for blood, Owen is smitten, and the feelings seem mutual, but impossible.
"Let Me In" lies somewhere between outright horror, a suspenseful thriller and a love story, however unconventional. Because both leads are fantastic, the film thrives in unexpected ways (well, assuming you haven't seen the original, whose equal this very much nears). Certainly, Smit-McPhee and Moretz (her in particular) are among the most natural child actors the screen has seen in ages. Jenkins is sympathetic with so little dialogue, allowing his tired face to tell his character's tragic story.
And this two-hour tale is nothing if not tragic. This isn't "Twilight," kiddos, and thank the good Lord for that. As Alfredson did, Reeves coats the film in a icy veneer so chilly and creepy, you'll feel the discomfort in your bones. Two set pieces stand out — without giving them away, one involves an auto accident (a sequence dissected among the disc's features); the other is the climactic confrontation in a swimming pool that may have you gasping for air.
Both the Blu-ray and DVD include a mini comic book that serves as a prequel to the film, focusing on Jenkins' character. It's only the first of four issues and non-essential to the viewing, but appreciated nonetheless. The film, however, is a must. Don't let this gem slip by you a second time. —Rod Lott