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Love at Second Bite

MOVIE REVIEW
Let Me In (2010)

Let-me-in-kodi-smit-mcphee-chloe-grace-moretz
Saeed Adyani/Overture Films

A swell of cacophony overwhelms most horror movies — an overwrought, heavily amplified soundscape of screaming, earsplitting terror. “Let Me In,” which deserves immediate comparison with the genre’s all-time classics, opts for a different approach. Matt Reeves’s remake of last year’s superb Swedish film “Let the Right One In” generates its terror in silence amid falling snow, in a world aglow with the yellowed haze of streetlamps permanently dimmed.

Set in dreary Los Alamos, N.M. circa 1983, it’s an evocative, powerful film with a strong emotional core and enough moments of sheer unsettling torment to enthrall the most discerning gore-hound. Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a lonely middle-school student mercilessly tormented by bullies during the day and ignored by his emotional wreck of a mother at night. The small, timid kid only feels powerful at night, perched by his window with his telescope in hand, spying on his neighbors.

One night, Owen’s making his usual voyeuristic rounds when he notices a new girl, about his age (Chloë Grace Moretz), shadowed by an elderly man (Richard Jenkins) who appears to be her father. Soon, Owen meets Abby in the courtyard, and a friendship tinged with romance blossoms. But Abby can’t eat, strange foreboding noises emanate from her apartment and her father makes late night runs to secure human blood, so all is clearly not as it seems.

Sadness pervades throughout the movie, with the cinematography and screenplay playing on the isolation of life in a world of sterile apartments, video arcades and bleak quasi-industrial spaces. It’s a grim, hopeless existence, rendered so artfully in perpetually falling snow that one shares the locked-in, miserable sensations that overcome the characters. When Owen tells Abby that he “hates it here” and “can’t wait to leave,” you know what he means.

The terror hits harder because of the hushed tones. The murder scenes are given a classy, gritty edge, robbed of the vicarious thrills that so often accompany horror movie kills. The deaths occur silently and viciously, out of necessity rather than some deep-rooted sadistic glee. They’re messy and hard to watch; there’s no joy, no entertainment to be had from experiencing them.

The stark, subdued nature of the murders enhances the sense of the psychological ensnarement of 12-year-olds trapped in a hopeless adult existence. Owen and Abby are kids who can’t be kids, robbed by circumstance and fate of the chance to experience the innocence and wonder of childhood. Navigating difficult emotional terrain, they desperately search for some way out of the morass.

Their answer is found in the moments they share on the frigid, snow-covered courtyard playground, tender, illicit bonding inside their apartments and their gradual learning to accept and understand some enormous secrets. It’s the portrait of the tenderness and joy of young love between two old souls — the film’s evocation of the ways one draws comfort from the knowledge that he is loved — that sets “Let Me In” apart. Owen and Abby let each other in and find the joy, the strength, to fight the darkness.

LET ME IN

Opens on Oct. 1 in the United States and on Nov. 5 in Britain.

Written and directed by Matt Reeves; based on the novel “Lat den Ratte Komma In” by John Ajvide Lindqvist; director of photography, Greig Fraser; music by Michael Giacchino; production design by Ford Wheeler; costumes by Melissa Bruning; produced by Simon Oakes, Alex Brunner, Guy East, Tobin Armbrust and Donna Gigliotti; released by Overture Films (United States) and Icon (Britain). Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes. This film is rated R by M.P.A.A. and 15 by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Chloë Grace Moretz (Abby), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Owen), Richard Jenkins (the Father) and Elias Koteas (the Policeman).

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