I feel a bit bad for the way that Let Me In was inducted into the hall of 2010 films. It suffered backlash before it came out, simply because of its roots as a remake of a Swedish film. And, then, when it finally came it landed with a whimper. It’s not exactly new ground – a 12 year old girl, a vampire, befriends a young boy and that – right there – is Let Me In. Two things strike me about Let Me In from the get-go. It’s uninterested in exploiting the child actors – in the sense that, even though the film covers the usual dilemmas of childhood (uncertainty, bullying) it’s not interested in turning the children in precocious faux-adults or cutesy babes. That sort of characterisation is imperative to the tone that Reeves is creating. Let Me In is marked by a sort of trepidation that pervades over the entire film. It’s a technique that Reeves uses for an actual reason, for this feeling of gloom amplifies the terror in Owen’s world and becomes a beautiful symbol for how the simplest of terrors become augmented for the young.
Though there’s rarely a false move in the screenplay – meticulously written by Reeves Let Me In depends most on its direction and the performance of the two leads. I mentioned Kodi Smith-McPhee as a runner up when I was compiling my Supporting Actor shortlist for his work in The Road and he manages to instil Owen with a maturity that doesn’t make him any less of a child. Unlike the typical child performance it asks for him to convey emotions not through speech, but through facial expressions and he’s so on point in his reaction to the bullies in his school showing emotion that’s rarely found in young actors. Moretz is simultaneously not as precise in her expressions and too precise in her movements, and though she doesn’t match the emotional profundity of Smith-McPhee she does a fine job of balancing the difficult role on her shoulders. Unlike her previous roles her previous roles her Abbie is not notable for her adult actions via children, she manages to seamlessly merge the childish spontaneity of Abbie with a larger sense of perception that works. Watching the film, I couldn’t help but appreciate the performance not for the fact that they’re children – but because they are inherently good performances (shame neither of them won the prize at the Critics Choice Awards).
In its way Let Me In reminds me of the attempts Aronofsky is making with Black Swan – a horror film that depends not on the usual tricks but just on the smallest of cinematic techniques. The foreboding music (courtesy of Michael Giacchino’s excellent score), the long takes building up the tension it all works especially well and makes me interested in seeing what next Reeves has up his sleeves.