Let Me In

Like I've said before, there are two kinds of post-apocalypse movies: first, there's the kind like Zombieland, which are relatively tidy. People might complain about missing their creature comforts, but you never see the struggle for food, or the fact that cleanliness is suddenly next to impossible. That sort of thing is saved for movies like The Book of Eli, where a prepackaged finger wipe from Kentucky Fried Chicken is like gold.

Vampire movies have basically the same two types. There are the kind like Twilight, where the vampires are pretty and sparkle; and there are the kind like Let Me In. (Okay, there's sort of a third type, like Daybreakers, where the vampires only start out pretty, but just humor me.) It's based on a Swedish novel called Låt den rätte komma in, which two years ago was made into a Swedish movie of the same name, which apparently translates more closely to "Let the Right One In". I'm not sure who the wrong one would be, though. There's only the one vampire, at least in this version, and once you've invited a vampire in, your fate is probably sealed, one way or the other.

It's 1983. Do you know where your children are? I mean, this movie's all about the kids, though somehow that works perfectly and there's no kid-actor awkwardness. Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz, who was also in Kick-Ass, though I can hardly imagine that based on her role here) is twelve, more or less. She and "The Father" -- no, not a priest; most grownups in this film just don't get names -- played by Richard Jenkins of Eat, Pray, Love, have just moved into the apartment next to the one where twelve-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee, who played Boy in The Road, and steps up to an actual name here) lives with his mother. She doesn't get a name. She's busy divorcing her cheating husband, being a religious fanatic, and drinking lots of wine. Owen's busy being bullied at school, spying on the neighbors, and "playing" out in the courtyard by himself, because there are no other kids around. Except Abby, sort of.

We know from the start that something's not right with that girl -- she walks through the snow barefoot and doesn't care -- and it isn't hard to figure out her true nature. Somehow, though, it's still creepy. Despite the child-vampire Claudia of Interview with a Vampire fame, we're still not used to seeing the young damsel in distress turn out to be the monster.

And she may or may not be the worst monster, anyway. There are three bullies that torment Owen, led by Kenny (Dylan Minnette), and Kenny is pretty rotten. Sometimes even the other two bullies tell him he's being too rough, but he's made Owen his special project. Still, even Kenny isn't always the worst of the available evils at that school. Abby may be at the top of the food chain, but she's also still a twelve-year-old. Sort of.

It's part horror movie -- throats get ripped out, after all. It's also part detective story. Elias Koteas (of Shutter Island, and also the Man Who Shot House) plays the homicide detective trying to find out why so many people are turning up gruesomely dead, who's shocked to find all clues pointing in Abby's general direction. I kept wondering how long he'd been on the job. He seemed awfully nervous at times; though I suppose chasing vampires, even if you don't really think that's what you're doing, would have that effect on anyone.

But strangely, it's mostly about growing up, even when you can't. Abby is a weird mix of a practical grown-up and an oddly sheltered little girl discovering that there are things like arcades and first kisses. Bloody first kisses, but still. The point is, I was actually scared in a way that didn't freak me out, which was good; the movie featured all the traditional vampire stuff, except all turned on its head, which I liked; and I rooted for the monster the entire time and that was still okay. This one gets four out of five idols, except I have a feeling the people that would really like it aren't going to go see it, because it looks like a regular horror movie. All I can say is, I'm sure I liked this one a lot better then I would've liked The Social Network, which I think mostly focuses on the being pretty stuff again.

Image: 
Abby longing to come in; Owen sulking dangerously

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