Let Me In tells the story of a twelve year old boy named Owen who lives a lonely life in New Mexico where his parents are going through a seperation and he is relentlessly picked on at school by a pack of bullies. Owen himself is a mild mannered kid and opts to avoid conflict where he can and is resigned to patiently biding his time until he is old enough to leave town.
Owen’s fortunes take a turn however when he gets some new neighbours in his apartment complex. Owen takes an instant liking to a girl named Abby who is kind to him but warns that they should not become friends. Owen ignores this advice and pursues a platonic relationship with Abby.
Let Me In plays its hand pretty early on in the film and reveals that Abby is a vampire in the body of a 12 year old and that both her and her much older companion are responsible for a spate of local murders which they commit to keep her appetite for blood sated.
The film is a bittersweet experience. Owen and Abby are a very likable pairing but it also becomes quickly apparent that their relationship is doomed to be a miserable one. We know this because Abby’s elderly companion is essentially Owen in fifty years time. If only Owen could take heed from the copy of Romeo & Juliet that he carries around with him!
Abby must constantly move from town to town to avoid capture. Her relentless thirst for blood means that to capture a sufficient number of victims, she cannot afford to be choosey and often the murders are sloppily handled, inviting the unwanted attention of the police and arousing the suspicions of neighbours.
The juxtaposition between Abby’s bloodlust and the innocence of her relationship with Owen is a striking one. Like Son of Rambow and Bridge to Terebithia, I think the film does an excellent job in capturing the sweet naivety that kids have in their final stages of childhood before entering adolescense. I particularly liked the exchange when Owen lies in bed with Abby and asks her to go steady with him. She asks how this will change their relationship, to which Owen replies ‘Nothing. You just go steady.’
There are several different narratives at play in Let Me In. There is Owen’s torment at the hands of bullies, by the end of which you are left champing at the bit for Abby to step in. There is a cop on the trail of Abby and the crimes she has commited which puts a constant sense of foreboding as we wonder whether she can evade capture. Finally there is her relationship with Owen which we come to understand follows a rather depressing cycle as her state of immortality creates an ever-expanding age gap for those who become attached to her. Let Me In is a sad but wonderful film and like the best monster movies, there are some underlying themes that give it satsfying depth beyond the bloodshed and carnage.
It must be said that it is also close to being a shot for shot remake of the Swedish original Let The Right One In. How much credit can you give director Matt Reeves for creating a great film when he has followed an original blueprint so closely? Ultimately when I think about the merits of this film, I consider that its certainly not an inferior version of Let The Right One In given their similarities and if it means that an English language adaptation opens it up to a wider audience then that can only be a good thing.