The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Reel Love: Let Me In

Let Me In depicts what modern life as a vampire would actually be like – or as close as we can guess. It’s a complicated and tragic existence. But like any life, it isn’t so bad when you’re not alone.

Owen (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a painfully shy boy just trying to survive middle school. He is bullied on a regular basis at school, and consistently ignored at home. When a similarly outcast girl his age, Abby (played by Chloe Moretz) moves into the apartment next door, the two misfits slowly form a friendship. A friendship that is complicated by the fact that Abby is not just a girl… Abby is a vampire.

Or at least that’s what we infer. I believe the word “vampire” is used only once in the entire movie. Abby simply describes herself as “needing blood to live.” And we see clearly that it is a need.

The beautiful thing about Let Me In is that at its core, it is a movie about friendship and coming of age, not vampires. Yes, I might use the vampire hook to entice vampire-lovers of the True Blood or Twilight nature to give Let Me In a chance, but it’s not what I loved about the film.

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Don’t get me wrong – there is blood, and there is mayhem, but the horror and the murders serve the characters’ development rather than take away from it.

The recent wave of sensationalized vampire movies is not the only thing Let Me In challenges. There are many familiar settings and symbols that are completely subverted throughout the film. I loved that for Owen, what should be terrifying (in this case, friendship with a blood-sucker) feels positive and safe, while the truly horrific moments of Owen’s life happen when he is away from Abby.

As Owen tears through his middle school locker room, running from standard playground bullies, we finally get the frantic tracking shots and the oh-so-fun horror-flick score we expect from “scary” movies.

Unfortunately, the weakest moments of this film are when Abby actually goes into feeding frenzy vampire mode. Special effects give her facial expressions a more demonic transformation, and she can suddenly make all the sounds of the jungle. These extra effects are distracting and not at all necessary. This is a horror movie, right? What is more horrific than watching a child that still looks innocent attack and kill? Why break the tone of the entire movie to introduce a border-line cheesy visual style that takes away from the riveting realism that is such an key attribute of the movie at all other times?

This movie has been criticized for being too true to the original. Yes, this film is remarkably similar to its Swedish predecessor, Let the Right One In. But can we for once just be glad that an American remake doesn’t horribly compromise or insult the original? This film does not pick up the pace to appease impatient American audiences; nor does it switch the horror into overdrive for empty screams. Rather it is subdued, poignant and patient in its storytelling – a style that few widely-released American movies emulate, let alone horror movies.

Films like Let the Right One In and Let Me In are a rare and precious breed of horror film, and if remaking the original, sans subtitles, is what it takes to introduce a quality vampire movie to the States, then so be it.

Reel Love is a recurring movie column from Currents editor Danielle Ryan.

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Reel Love: Let Me In