Let this be the spookiest movie you'll watch this year ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Monday, November 22, 2010

Let this be the spookiest movie you'll watch this year

Let Me In
My rating:

I'd been looking for Let the Right One In for ages. I'd heard so much about it; I'm always keen on fresh and unique takes on genre tropes, and you couldn't get much fresher or more unique than a Swedish horror movie about a 12-year-old girl vampire. But it was bloody hard to find though, and it wasn't till days before the local release of Let Me In - the Hollywood remake - that a friend finally loaned me his copy. And I'd really wanted to see it before I watched the remake too - but as you can probably tell by how late my reviews are nowadays, my time management pretty much sucks.

Now I'm glad I saw the remake before the original. But I'm not glad I went and spoiled so much of it for myself.

Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is 12 years old, living in wintry Los Alamos in 1983, child of a divorced mother, and frequent target of a particularly sadistic bully (Dylan Minnette). His alienation and misery seem unending, until newcomers move in to the apartment next door: Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz), a girl his age, and an older man (Richard Jenkins). A friendship grows between Owen and Abby, even as their town is rocked by a series of murders - murders committed by Abby's "father". It soon becomes clear that Abby is a vampire, an immortal creature who lives on human blood provided by her guardian. Meanwhile, a police detective's (Elias Koteas) investigations of the murders draw closer and closer to Abby and Owen.

First, for those who know nothing about either this movie or the original Swedish film. This is a quiet, haunting, and pretty damn disturbing horror movie - which means it'll go largely unappreciated by Malaysian audiences. I'm not usually one to snob over my fellow movie-goer (actually I am, but I don't do it often on this blog), but I watched this while sitting next to a bunch of teenagers who wouldn't stop giggling through it all. Sadly, this is just the movie that will raise giggles amongst their kind, which is both an indictment on the stupidity of teenagers and a testament to the film's uniqueness. Which may have come from the Swedish original - and the novel on which it is based - but I'll put my critic cred on the line now and say the remake is better.

Yes, I finally did watch Let the Right One In, and Let Me In really is better. It's a far more slick production, it has better production values and acting, it emphasizes the horror elements more, but it doesn't in fact sacrifice the mood and themes of the original. In terms of mood, director Matt Reeves keeps things slow and methodical throughout, which only emphasizes the few bursts of bloody violence. The original had a stark fluorescent white look throughout, which may well reflect what a typical suburb in Sweden looks like, but Reeves gives his film far darker, gloomier, and overall more effective lighting. And I didn't think the director of Cloverfield had it in him, but he has a terrific eye for setting scenes, especially the scary parts (even if some of them were lifted wholesale from the original). But it is in the storyline and themes - and how it occasionally goes even further in portraying those themes than the original film - that makes it exceptional.

Because I meant it when I called this movie disturbing. On the surface it's a romance between a shy, awkward 12-year-old boy with a girl his age - but the girl is not only a supernatural, murderous predator, she is also much, much older than she looks. In a remarkably subtle scene, the relationship between Abby and her "father" takes on an incredibly creepy turn, and the creepiness extends to a later part when she attempts to seduce Owen by climbing into his bed naked. And it's not at all exploitative or puerile (despite what those morons who sat next to me thought); Owen is no healthy and well-adjusted child himself, what with his fantasies of violent retribution against his bullies. But when he spied on his neighbours, he turned away when they started having sex - and when he sees two older teenagers making out, his expression is one of disgust. Sexuality scares him, and thus Abby's seduction does not go the way she planned - but it does not stop him from falling for her.

Yii, child sexuality and hints of pedophilia. Amazing that such a movie like this could ever get made, especially in Hollywood - but only Hollywood has actors like Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloë Grace Moretz, for whom this is a terrific vehicle for their talents. They are both flawless, and better than their Swedish counterparts; for one thing, Moretz is much prettier than Lina Leandersson, which makes Abby more believable as an object of obsession for males of all ages. Moretz is more famous due to her turn as Hit-Girl (and she proves capable of far more than just acrobatic fight scenes and uttering profanities), but Smit-McPhee arguably has the more difficult job portraying Owen, who is a stew of anxieties, insecurities, fears and desires. Elias Koteas and Richard Jenkins provide able support, but this film is all about the two children; note how throughout the movie, Reeves takes care to never show Owen's mother's face.

It's only noticeable fault is a slight cheesiness in the effects, during the parts in which Abby turns into an obvious and not-very-smoothly-animated CGI creature. And personally, the ending was a tad disappointing to me; it has a sense of inevitability to it, but after having read so much about Let the Right One In and its plot (even though I thought I was careful with spoilers), it came off to me as predictable. But that's just me and my weakness for over-researching movies before I watch them. If you've heard little about this movie, or the Swedish original, don't Google it - just go watch it now. Put in some patience and some open-mindedness, and you'll be rewarded with one of the freshest and most unique (those words again!) horror movies you'll see all year. In fact, if it weren't for those dumb teenagers, I might even have given it 4-½ stars.

Expectations: ditayangkan di Los Angeles ye? Kita tengok kalau layak ke tak


The Wan And Only said...

i hear you man! i was in the cinema watching with said teenagers, some old queens and a bunch of couples thinking that it was a romantic movie like Twilight or something... the giggling, the talking on the phone and the talking... wished abby was there to cut all their heads off... :)