Frankly, not much of the improvement is a function of Reeves’ filmmaking skills. As screenwriter, he retains the story nearly beat for beat: Owen (The Road’s Kodi Smit-McPhee), a 12-year-old in 1983 Las Cruces, N.M., is isolated by his parents’ recent separation and bullied at school. His new next-door neighbor, Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz), is also 12—“more or less,” she qualifies. That’s because she’s an ageless vampire, her thirst for blood handled by her middle-age caretaker (Richard Jenkins), until circumstances force Abby more out into the open.
Reeves seems too enamored with his 1980s setting—look, they’re bonding over Ms. Pac Man, while Culture Club plays!—and an attempt at religious fervor/satanist fears subtext just doesn’t evolve naturally. But otherwise, he sticks close to the original’s individual scenes. Some he handles better, like the arrival of a police officer (Elias Koteas) at Abby’s apartment; some he handles worse, like Let the Right One In’s brilliant swimming-pool sequence. And some he wisely abandons altogether, like the famously risible killer CGI-cat attack.
But his real brilliance comes in casting Smit-McPhee and Moretz, who make for a heartbreak pairing of doomed—perhaps even damned—first love. It’s not easy matching the self-possession that makes Moretz convincing as an eternal adolescent, but Smit-McPhee is simply terrific in his confused quest for connection. Their pairing alone makes Let Me In a step up from the original. Just let the idea in, purists.
LET ME IN
Chloe Grace Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Richard Jenkins