The plot and all of the key scenes are the same in both versions. A twelve-year-old girl moves into the neighborhood with her caretaker (Richard Jenkins). Every night the caretaker finds an unexpected person and slits their throat to bottle their blood for Abby, the little girl. Meanwhile young Owen is having trouble with bullies at school and strikes up an innocent relationship with Abby.
It’s the vampire romance film that’s actually…you know…good. The original version remains one of the best horror films of the last decade, but this one holds its ground as an equal. It is because there is strong enthusiasm in its filmmaking. All of the big set pieces in the original were designed to unsettle you, to creep you out. In Let Me In, Reeves is ready to scare you and he’s successful.
He doesn’t rely on gore, but there is plenty of spilled blood. Reeves is not ripping off Hitchcock or Carpenter, but creating his own style of effective horror. If the original was showing you a frightening image, Reeves wants to take a few steps closer and put you among the terror. Everything is more intense and that never cheapens what is going on. There is one extended sequence from inside a car that is just a wonder to watch.
With these additional steps towards the action, there seems to be more of a focus on the relationship. A love story among twelve-year-olds is a difficult one to accomplish, but Reeves lets them interact more. These honest moments makes the payoffs at the end of the film have more resonance and then the film is even more haunting.
The two young leads have already established their quality before in other films. Kodi Smit-McPhee was given acclaims for his role in The Road and Chloe Moretz stole the show in Kick-Ass. In this they continue to be impressive young actors, but Moretz takes it one step further. She brings something very profound as she adds an extra element of soul and soullessness to the performance. There hasn’t been this much sorrow in a character’s demeanor while still transforming into an animalistic monster. It will never happen, but she deserves a Best Actress nomination at this year’s Academy Awards.
This is a horror film that should have a powerful reaction to audiences. With so many films of the genre that are being spit out like on an assembly line, this stands out as a movie of true quality. Nothing is “Americanized.” It still challenges the audience with its subject material, pacing, and the intelligent way it presents the story. There were plenty of fears that the ages would be raised to 18, the leads wouldn’t be as disturbing, or elements of the ending would be changed. Instead there is a level of maturity and inspiration not typically seen out of Hollywood. For once, the remake does not belittle or embarrass but stand as a worthy companion to another excellent film.