Let Me In [Blu-Ray]
Director : Matt Reeves
Screenplay : Matt Reeves (based on the novel and Låt den rätte komma in by John Ajvide Lindqvist)
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2010
Stars : Kodi Smit-McPhee (Owen), Chloë Grace Moretz (Abby), Richard Jenkins (The Father), Cara Buono (Owen’s Mother), Elias Koteas (The Policeman), Sasha Barrese (Virginia), Dylan Kenin (Larry), Chris Browning (Jack), Ritchie Coster (Mr. Zoric), Dylan Minnette (Kenny), Jimmy “Jax” Pinchak (Mark), Nicolai Dorian (Donald), Rebekah Wiggins (Nurse), Seth Adkins (High School Kid), Ashton Moio (Lanky Kid), Brett DelBuono (Kenny’s Brother)
Having seen Let the Right One In, the evocative Swedish horror film by Tomas Alfredson that Matt Reeves has remade as Let Me In, my first and only question was how Reeves was going to handle the underwater pool shot. If you’ve seen the original, you know exactly to what shot I’m referring: Quite possibly one of the most disturbing, disquieting, and oddly beautiful shots in any horror film, it has a unique perfection that simply cannot be improved upon. I was not sure what to anticipate since Reeves’s remake is a careful balancing act of sequences that quote the original almost verbatim and new sequences that are wholly his own. Thus, I would not have been surprised if Reeves had staged it exactly as Alfredson had or if had thrown it out and gone with something entirely different.
As it turns out, Reeves keeps the essence of the shot, but tries to “improve” on it by making it more graphic and aggressive in its violence, a calculated mistake that mars an otherwise surprisingly good film at regular intervals. This does not make Let Me In a bad film or a bad horror film; in fact, once you get past the unavoidable sense that this remake is entirely unnecessary given the structural, visual, and emotional brilliance of Alfredson’s original, it works very well on its own merits. However, Reeves frequently makes the mistake of many a horror director, namely showing too much. Part of the unnerving essence of Let the Right One In hinges on Alfredson’s restraint in depicting the film’s violence, which makes the few moments when he does put it all on screen (especially the aforementioned underwater shot) so impressively shocking. That film is a cornerstone of the “less is more” principle, and while Reeves’ version is certainly more restrained than the majority of current American horror films, it still pushes at places when it should be pulling back, especially given the generally unconvincing nature of the digital effects.
The story, based on a novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, is almost exactly the same as the original film. Instead of being set in the industrial north of Sweden, Reeves has selected the desolation of Los Alamos, New Mexico, as his locale, which is further isolated by the cold, snowy winter weather and the temporal setting of 1983, which also allows Reeves to snag a pertinent snippet of a Ronald Reagan speech about the fundamental nature of evil and how U.S. history is riddled with it. Kodi Smit-McPhee stars as Owen, a skinny, socially awkward, and deeply angry 12-year-old who lives in a depressing cinderblock apartment complex with his religious mother (Cara Buono), who is separated from Owen’s father and tends drink herself to sleep every night with cheap wine (her face is kept out of frame the entire movie, thus suggesting that she is as distant from Owen as everyone else). Thus, Owen is, in every sense of the world, alone, which makes him susceptible to bullying. Middle school boys have a special gift for sniffing out weakness and punishing it, and Owen has become a daily punching bag for a trio of more developed bullies led by Kenny (Dylan Minnette), whose narrows eyes and thin-lipped sneer portend something more than run-of-the-mill adolescent harassment.
One night, Owen spies his new neighbors moving in: a 12-year-old girl named Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz) and her father (Richard Jenkins). When Owen and Abby first cross paths, she keeps her distance from him and tells him right off the bat that they can’t be friends. However, their paths cross again, and soon they are drawn to each other, sharing the quizzical joys of a Rubik’s Cube and bonding over their shared desire to be left alone. What Owen doesn’t realize, and what is only slowly revealed to us in bits and pieces, is that Abby is an ancient vampire hiding in a little girl’s body and her “father” is really more of a servant who plays the role of serial killer to procure blood for her continued existence. The exact nature of Abby’s relationship with the father character is left deliberately vague for an extensive period of time, but we know that it is both dedicated (he is willing to kill for her, over and over again) and contentious (Owen hears them shouting at each other through the walls, and the father seems consistently exhausted and depressed).
Much of the film focuses on the gradually evolving relationship between Owen and Abby. He is drawn to her simple willingness to be with him and share in his various pleasures (including Now-and-Laters, which make her physically sick), while she is intrigued (and perhaps even seduced) by his innocence and naïveté. When she tells him that he needs to hit back at the bullies--hard--she is dispensing the kind of advice that doesn’t normally fall from the lips of 12-year-old girls, and when he follows through on it he is suddenly faced with both the exhilaration and terror of being able to harm another person, something with which Abby is intimately familiar.
Their relationship has a sweetness and sincerity that gives the film an unusual edge; we are meant to both fear and pity Abby (her vampirism is more tragedy than romantic superpower), which makes our desire to see her and Owen together unnervingly tricky. As their friendship blossoms, they are both in increasing danger: she of being discovered and he of being potentially devoured. Both Smit-McPhee (The Road) and Moretz (Kick-Ass) embody their respective roles impressively: Smit-McPhee is the essence of the gawky, half-finished nature of middle-school physicality, while Moretz commands her body like someone who has worn it for ages, a performative feat that is unfortunately undermined every time Reeves turns on the digital wonderworks and attempts to depict her moving with inhuman speed and agility. It is about the only time you will mistake the film for Twilight, which did something similarly silly, albeit in broad daylight.
Reeves, who started in television and became a protégé of J.J. Abrams’s during his extended stint writing for and directing a few episodes of Felicity, made a name for himself directing the Abrams-produced digi-video monster mash Cloverfield (2008). In that film, Reeves demonstrated a sense of the cinematic that far exceeded the clever, but limited gambit of shooting the entire film from the first-person perspective of a videocamera, and Let Me In allows him to further stretch his visual muscle. Reeves wisely follows Alfredson’s general aesthetic approach of hushed tones, minimal editing, desaturated colors, and a heavy emphasis on contrast and moody shadows, but he also goes one further by dropping Alfredson’s heavy reliance on long shots and structuring the film’s visuals around extreme shallow focus, which turns large areas of each frame into near abstraction. In his screenplay, he expands on the original film with the inclusion of a police detective (Elias Koteas) who is investigating the murders necessary for Abby’s survival, and he also reworks several sequences, the most successful being a botched murder attempt that is scored with Blue Oyster Cult’s ominous “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and climaxes with an end-over-end car wreck shot entirely inside the car. These gambles in straying from the original mostly pay off, and the only time Let Me In shows any crassness is when Reeves pours on the violence and gore instead of cutting away and saving, as Alfredson did so wisely, the best for last.
|Let Me In Blu-Ray|
|Audio||Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 surround|
|Distributor||Overture Films / Anchor Bay Entertainment|
|Release Date||February 1, 2011|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|First off, you must remember that Let Me In is a dark, dark, dark film. There are some scenes that take place in broad daylight, but probably 80% of the film takes place at night and/or inside dark interiors that seem to be lit with a single lightbulb. This makes for a moody, evocative visual palette, but also a challenge for the transfer. Overall, I am pleased to report that the 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer on this dual-layered 50GB disc handles the image very well. Blacks look excellent throughout, with great shadow detail and very little crushing or graying. Contrast is spot-on throughout, resulting in a generally crisp, but still filmlike image that does great service to the film’s atmosphere. The color palette tends to be limited to variations of frosty blues and grays and sickly yellows and greens, all of which appear as I remember them in the theatrical presentation. The lossless Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1-channel soundtrack yields no complaints either, with excellent spaciousness and surround effects to set the stage and plenty of kick on the low end when the track becomes more aggressive.|
|Writer/director Matt Reeves provides a consistently insightful and thoughtful screen-specific audio commentary that elucidates many of the film’s themes and their connections to his own childhood, as well as his many cinematic influences, which range from Steven Spielberg to Wong-Kar Wai. In addition to the commentary, there is also a picture-in-picture viewing option that uses the lower righthand portion of the screen at various points in the film to show interview segments with Reeves, producer Simon Oakes and others, as well as behind-the-scenes footage and storyboards. Some of those interview segments are also included in the 18-minute featurette “From The Inside: A Look at the Making of Let Me In,” which also includes interviews with actors Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Grace Moretz, Richard Jenkins, and Elias Koteas, as well as plenty of footage of the film’s production. The film’s various special effects, both digital and practical, are explored in two brief featurettes: “The Art of Special Effects” gives us half a dozen sequences in various stages of digital development, from rough animatics to finished composites, while in the “Car Crash Sequence Step-By-Step” featurette, Reeves shows us how that impressive “single shot” crash was actually created by digitally stitching together two shots, one on location and one in a studio. Other supplements include three deleted scenes (running about 5 minutes today), both the red-band and green-band trailers for the film, and a gallery of production stills and poster design concepts.|
Copyright ©2010 James Kendrick
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