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Let Me In DVD Review

Let Me In (2010) movie poster Let Me In

Theatrical Release: October 1, 2010 / Running Time: 116 Minutes / Rating: R / Songs List

Director: Matt Reeves / Writers: Matt Reeves (screenplay), John Ajvide Lindqvist (screenplay and novel Lๅt den rไtte komma in)

Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee (Owen), Chlo๋ 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)

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Supposedly, Let Me In is not a remake but a new adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist's book. Viewers who enter it are more likely to have seen the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In (Lๅt den rไtte komma in in its native tongue) than have read the 2004 novel on which it is based. Having watched them just a few hours apart, I can confirm that the two movies contain a great number of similarities.
For all the acclaim poured onto Tomas Alfredson's film, I slightly preferred the 2010 take adapted and directed by "Felicity" creator and Cloverfield director Matt Reeves, which only seems unoriginal after seeing its homeland adaptation.

Let Me In is set in the winter of 1983 in the snowy mountain town of Los Alamos, New Mexico. There, 12-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a loner. Soon and without good reason, Owen becomes the victim of some serious bullying. Around the same time, a girl moves into the apartment next door to Owen and his mother. Her name is Abby (Chlo๋ Grace Moretz) and she seems decent enough. There are some odd things about her, though. Like the fact that she walks around barefoot outside in the snow with no discomfort. And that she gives her age as "12, more or less."

Though the film takes its time to shed light on Abby's true nature, chances are you either already know or can figure out from Bloody-Disgusting.com's rear cover quote that Abby is a vampire. While the aforementioned horror website claims that "it will be nearly impossible for any vampire film, ever, to measure up", such a comment suggests that all vampire films are in competition and are as similar as, say, slasher movies or disaster flicks are. Let Me In cannot easily be compared with the best-known vampire movies. Does anyone but vampire film enthusiasts try to figure out how the Twilight and Blade movies rank next to The Lost Boys and all the various tellings of Dracula?

Australian child actor Kodi Smit-McPhee plays Owen, the bullied 12-year-old protagonist of "Let Me In." Rising young American star Chlo๋ Grace Moretz plays Abby, the equally lonely next-door neighbor with a secret hunger.

There is probably no quicker way to turn off someone who would likely enjoy Reeves' film than to call it a vampire movie, unless perhaps you tell them that and then draw comparisons to The Little Vampire, the sparsely-seen 2000 Jonathan Lipnicki family adventure. Let Me In is that rare breed of horror movie that doesn't go for either gory kills or building and sustaining suspense. It actually offers a little bit of each as its intimate character study unfolds at a very relaxed pace.

Abby needs blood to live and to that end, there is "The Father" (Richard Jenkins), the man of no biological relation who serves as her provider. Told from a different point of view, this father figure would stand as a monstrous serial killer who hangs his random victims upside down and collects their blood. But here, as deliberately nothing humanizes the prey, there is almost something sweet and selfless about this man and his arrangement. Certainly, one can harvest nothing but sympathy for Abby, who vows to protect Owen and encourages him to stand up to his tormentors.

The design is something of a loaded deck. Who can watch a sweet, essentially innocent boy getting picked on and traumatically embarrassed and not be moved to support? Sure, the bullies aren't killing, draining blood and lapping it up, but from our perspective, that would be an improvement. They really are vicious, with practically nothing to motivate or explain their behavior.

The film is less interested in them, though, than it is in the friendship and prepubescent romance of Owen and Abby. Australian actor Smit-McPhee, previously seen as the son in The Road, and increasingly ubiquitous American Moretz (most in/famous for her turn as Kick-Ass' foul-mouthed Hit Girl) are well cast and go a long way to making this central relationship as earnest and endearing as possible. They are certainly as effective as, if not more than, the Swedish child actors who played these roles before them. This is integral to Let Me In's success, because without such a solid emotional center, it wouldn't be hard to lose interest in the mystery around it.

As the mustachioed policeman (Elias Koteas) talks on the phone, Ronald Reagan talks on TV, giving a speech as America's president back in 1983. Draw some glasses on there, and this John Doe police sketch looks like the spitting image of Richard Jenkins' dark, enigmatic character, billed as The Father.

Reeves deviates from Alfredson's filming in rather minor ways. A secondary perspective in the Swedish film belonged to a married couple who became personally affected by their neighborhood's new threat. Here, it's a police officer played by Elias Koteas who opens the film and investigates from time to time. The change has little effect on the overall scheme, nor does giving Owen's mother (an ever-obscured Cara Buono) religion and then developing it into a reason for her fresh divorce.
A couple of the most iconic moments from the original film are not as effectively or clearly created here.

One aspect in the American movie's favor is that it emphasizes its period setting. For much of Let the Right One In, I wondered whether the movie was set around 1980 or if Swedish cars and fashions are just really behind the times. Reeves puts a date out there at the start and enforces it with period music from David Bowie, Culture Club, Blue Oyster Cult, and The Vapors. Although making Owen and Abby's Rubik's Cube bonding more believable, setting this story in the past doesn't seem essential. It chiefly adds an easy layer of appeal for viewers, who like Reeves, Lindqvist, and Alfredson, spent their all-important teenage years then. And though I didn't, I have enough fondness for films of this era to appreciate the authentic, nuanced recreation and what it adds in the way of atmosphere.

Opening in just over 2,000 theaters last October, Let Me In became only the seventh very wide release by Overture Films. Sadly, it also would be the last for the studio that came onto the scene in January 2008 with Mad Money. Stone, the Robert De Niro/Edward Norton prison drama given limited release one week later, was the nineteenth and final overall film distributed by the Starz company. Making an underwhelming $12.1 million, Let Me In narrowly became Overture's median grosser. Having seen most and reviewed some of the Overture oeuvre, I feel it's worth taking a moment to eulogize the studio. It may not have lit up the box office in its three years of distribution, but it did produce some quality cinema in the likes of Sunshine Cleaning, The Visitor, and this review's subject.

Let Me In comes to DVD and Blu-ray today from surviving Starz video arm Anchor Bay Entertainment, eager to be discovered by those who weren't moved enough by the overwhelmingly favorable reviews to check it out in theaters.

Let Me In DVD cover art -- click to buy DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Plastic Slipcover
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($39.99 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Let Me In has a very stylized look, tinting many of its scenes blue or yellow. It is a dark film, sometimes so dark as to obscure distant action. The 2.40:1 widescreen picture is largely without fault, however, remaining clean always and sharp most of the time (except when edges are intentionally put in soft focus). The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is loud and marked by peaks and valleys I'm not often keen on. The mix is absolutely effective in both large and small moments, punctuating moments and providing winning atmosphere.

Writer/director Matt Reeves lets us in on his creative processes in an audio commentary and this making-of featurette. The different layers of a hospital fire effects sequence are broken down in "The Art of Special Effects."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The healthy serving of extras begins with the Set Up menu's audio commentary by writer/director Matt Reeves. The same savvy you sense in Reeves' two very different recent horror films comes through in his engaging solo track. Twice, he mentions the project's origins and having the same kneejerk aversion to this remake that many fans of the Swedish film have. He proceeds to talk fully and clearly, citing influences from Spielberg to Hitchcock, weighing in on the story and characters, explaining his mindset while making the movie, and pointing out little touches (like a Richard Jenkins mask). Reeves spends ample time on his actors, praising their willingness and confessing he hadn't actually been able to see the young leads' breakthrough films before casting them. Though the movie is long and Reeves has no one to bounce off of, this commentary stands above most others.

Kicking off the video supplements, "From the Inside: The Making of Let Me In" (17:05) discusses the project's origins, cast, stunts, make-up, visual effects, design and story. A perfectly serviceable featurette, it supplies behind-the-scenes footage and many cast and crew remarks.

"The Art of Special Effects" (6:29) deconstructs the layers and stages of some of the film's few VFX sequences, covering set pieces and environmental subtleties alike from crude pre-visualizations to final product.

The driver doesn't look very Richard Jenkinsy in this Car Crash Sequence pre-visualization animation. Foreign physical education teacher/afterschool coach Mr. Zoric (Ritchie Coster) had his biggest scene land on the cutting floor, only to rise as a DVD-preserved deletion. A bloody-faced Abby embraces Owen on the DVD's foggy main menu montage.

"Car Crash Sequence Step-by-Step" (5:35) provides similar treatment for an ambitious single-shot effect,
with audio commentary laid over set photos, a test run, sound stage blue screen footage, and CGI visualizations.

Three deleted scenes (5:08) are presented with optional Reeves commentary. The predominantly quiet bits include more of Owen working out and being advised by the gym teacher/strength training coach (Ritchie Coster).

A Trailer Gallery supplies "Greenband" (2:22) and "Redband" (2:27) previews of Let Me In. These comparable and compelling ads may have been ineffective at drawing crowds but are welcome here.

The Poster & Still Gallery serves up five US one-sheet designs and 28 publicity-friendly director-centric photos from production. All are displayed at a smaller size than they should be.

"Also on DVD" provides individually accessible full trailers for Stone, Jack Goes Boating, The Crazies, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, I Spit on Your Grave (2010), and And Soon the Darkness. The first two play when the disc is loaded.

The Blu-ray edition adds "Dissecting Let Me In" and a digital copy.

Let Me In's DVD is treated to one of the all-too-rare slipcovers that serve a purpose. Though the rear of the plastic sleeve reproduces what's below, the front offers an inspired translucent foggy design that heightens and enhances the Abby shot against black of the keepcase cover. Never mind that the hand on glass moment was more significant in the original film than this one.

Found inside, the set's final extra is the limited edition Let Me In: Crossroads, the first of four Dark Horse comic books billing themselves as the official prelude to the film. Using likenesses of its actors, this glossy, staple-bound 24-page "exclusive home entertainment edition" by Marc Andreyko, Patric Reynolds, and Dave Stewart tells the story of Abby and her guardian (given the name Thomas here) living in Wellsville, Indiana and interacting with its rural community in 1982. I'm not normally a big comics fan, but this is a pretty cool inclusion.

The DVD's operatically-scored main menu montage resembles the foggy window design of the cover. Submenus are static but nicely adorned with still imagery from the film.

Sitting outside their apartment building in the New Mexico snow, Abby (Chlo๋ Grace Moretz) and Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) meet for the first time.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Let Me In does not provide a fundamentally different or even strikingly different experience than Let the Right One In. If you love that Swedish film and are convinced that it cannot be improved, you won't likely be surprised. Still, Matt Reeves' adaptation is decidedly not the inevitably inferior English language version that some feared. I found it slightly more engrossing and easier to warm to than its European predecessor. So long as you can appreciate a slow, somber, atmospheric horror movie starring kids (and many cannot), either version is worth checking out. I recommend the remake to both the unacquainted and those devoted to the original.

Anchor Bay's DVD more than gets the job done with a stellar presentation of the film and a nice collection of extras.

Buy DVD from Amazon.com / Buy on Blu-ray / Buy Let the Right One In: DVD / Blu-ray / Book

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Related Reviews:
New: Buried • The Last Exorcism • Case 39 • Piranha • Alice in Wonderland (1951, Blu-ray + DVD) • Welcome to the Rileys
Vampires: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse • Bram Stoker's Dracula | Writer/Director Matt Reeves: Cloverfield • Felicity: The Senior Year Collection
Kodi Smit-McPhee: The Road | Chloe Grace Moretz: Kick-Ass • Diary of a Wimpy Kid • Bolt
Richard Jenkins: Step Brothers • Eat Pray Love • Dear John • Shall We Dance?
Elias Koteas: Zodiac • Defendor • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button • The Thin Red Line • One Magic Christmas • Shooter
Where the Wild Things Are • Bridge to Terabithia • Flipped • Hand in Hand • Accidents Happen • Son of Rambow
Frozen • The Shining • Disturbia • Cujo • Child's Play • Orphan • Something Wicked This Way Comes
Overture Films: Stone • The Crazies • Jack Goes Boating • Brooklyn's Finest • The Men Who Stare at Goats
2010 Remakes: Death at a Funeral • The Karate Kid • I Spit on Your Grave • And Soon the Darkness

Let Me In Songs List: David Bowie - "Let's Dance", The Vapors - "Turning Japanese", Culture Club - "Time (Clock of the Heart)", Culture Club - "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me", Freur - "Doot Doot", Blue Oyster Cult - "Burnin' for You", The Greg Kihn Band - "Breakup Song"

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Reviewed February 1, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2010 Overture Films, Hammer Films, Exclusive Media Group, EFTI, and 2011 Anchor Bay Entertainment.
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