The episode of Best Horror Movie You Never Saw covering Let Me In was Written by Paul Bookstaber, Narrated by Kier Gomes, Edited by Paul Bookstaber, Produced by John Fallon and Tyler Nichols, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.
When it comes to love stories, they simply do not have a happy ending within the context of most horror movie plots. Usually those in love become fodder together by the time the end credits roll. But what if I told you, that a love story within horror does exist, and what if it comes off as innocent and pure at first, but then evolves into something much more than we’re led on to? We’re not talking about The Bride of Frankenstein or even Bride of Chucky. You may have forgotten about one of the best remade love stories introducing a teenage vampire. A story about innocence-lost on both sides of the spectrum – one being a bloodthirsty little girl that confides in an older guardian doing her dirty deeds to stay alive. The other being a loner, outcast teen with serial-killer tendencies, looking for nothing more than a girl to fall for and confide in. With every vampire flick there is usually a catch and this time it involves our hopeless romantic Owen about to go on a rollercoaster of pure mayhem and chaos. Cloverfield director, Matt Reeve’s 2013 film, Let Me In (watch it HERE) is today’s film we’re going to do a deep dive on. It’s an incredibly strong retelling of the 2008 Swedish all-time classic, Let the Right One In. So, get on your sunscreen, sharpen your stakes, and wear that garlic because Let Me In may be just one of the Best Horror Movies You Never Saw.
It’s a tall order to remake a film that has been perfectly adapted from its 2008 counterpart in Let the Right One In. It’s an even taller order to give that to someone who at the time had only one directing credit to their name. Meet Matt Reeves, you probably heard of his name, since he established himself with amazing films such as Dawn of and War for the Planet of the Apes. He also recently directed a very grounded, and realistic approach on the newest take of DC Comics’ Caped Crusader and World’s Greatest Detective the Batman starring Robert Pattinson. Prior to these Hollywood classics, Matt Reeves only had JJ Abram’s produced Cloverfield to his name. Even though Cloverfield was a box-office success and showcased Reeve’s technical approach to storytelling through POV, was it possible for Reeves to accomplish the massive undertaking of recreating Let the Right One In and making Let Me In the preferred iteration of the fucked-up vampire love story between sweet Abby and Owen? Let’s dive in and discuss.
Let Me In starts off in 1983 Los Alamos, New Mexico. We see an ambulance from a distance driving through the cold, snowy, chilly night carrying what appears to be a burn-suspect handcuffed to a gurney struggling to talk. Paramedics speak to dispatch that the man poured acid on himself and needs to be helped immediately. He’s taken into the hospital and a detective comes in to question the suspect. The detective steps out of the room when he doesn’t get answers and walks down the hallway to make a call. He hears screams by the nurse tending to the suspect and the detective runs back to the room only to see the suspect jump out of the window and become a murder outline on the ground below. The camera focuses on a letter left by the suspect that says, “I’m sorry Abby.” We then are taken back two weeks earlier to see what caused this chain of events.
We’re introduced to Owen played by Kodi Smit-McPhee. You see Owen eating candy by himself in the snow-filled courtyard, deciding not to dispose the wrappers the proper way, typical kid stuff. He’s called in by his mother, and its apparent there’s no father-figure in this household. While most kids like to play videogames, or a nice game of tag, our buddy Owen likes to wear creepy masks, playing voyeur via telescope in his neighbor’s windows, and is perfecting his stabby-stabby technique at mirrors. A real certified children’s role model. Owen notices some new neighbors, the “father” played by Richard Jenkins of Step Brothers and Six Feet Under fame walking his daughter with a giant chest. The daughter is that foul-mouthed, kill-crazy superhero Hit-Girl from the movie Kick Ass played by Chloe Grace Moretz. Owens opens the front-door just a crack to notice his new love interest doesn’t seem to be sporting any shoes which is totally weird considering it’s close to freezing outside. Nothing to shrug your shoulders about, right?
The next day we get Owen walking in the courtyard looking at his neighbor’s window only to see them covered by cardboard. Guess they don’t like that morning sun ruining their beauty sleep. We get a glimpse into Owen’s personal life at school, and sadly he is more of the bullied type. Spitballs, wedgies galore, and towel whippings are part of this boy’s unfortunate curriculum. He goes to a local drug store and purchases a swiss-army knife, maybe for widdling wood perhaps? He also takes part in spying on two teens making out. It seems Owen is yearning for a female companion to get his mind off the negativities of his world, but doesn’t every adolescent dare I say want love and companionship growing up?
Owen is in the courtyard at night again working on his stabby-stabby against some poor old trees. Treebeard from Lord of the Rings would be super pissed if he seen this happening, and we are introduced to Abby – the shoeless love interest who warns Owen, “We can’t be friends that’s just the way It is.” Way to add more insult to Owen’s life Abby. Now that Abby’s “father” is watching this new bond form we tag along for one of his nights out on the town. We’re not too sure where it leads until we see the “father” get into a teenager’s car with clothing reminiscent of Matt Reeve’s iteration of The Riddler from The Batman. It’s there that the “father” drugs the unexpected teenager, hangs him upside down, and drains his blood into a jug. Unfortunately, the “father” isn’t too great walking in the snow, slips downhill, and pours all the blood over the snow and trees creating the messiest crime scene for our detectives to solve. Way to go Dad.
Owen starts to hear an altercation between the “father” and Abby through the walls, although Abby’s voice is different. It’s deeper and guttural, hanging on the brink of being hangry and desperate; but when life gets hard grab a snickers, or in this case more blood from innocent victims! Abby takes matters into her own hands this time from a bystander walking through the community. We’re finally revealed Abby’s true form as she contorts and ravages around the poor man’s body trying to flee. It’s a lost cause as he becomes the main course on Abby’s menu. The “father” becomes pissed that he has another body to dispose of creating more heat from the police following his tail.
Abby notices Owen with a band aid on his face from the same bullies who have tormented him for the past few days. Abby tells Owen to stand up to his bullies and that she will help him and holds Owen’s hand. Owen decides to hang out with Abby the next night taking her to an arcade and introducing her to some tasty taffy that Abby throws up well because she’s a vampire and they aren’t exactly the candy-loving type. Owen is starting to fall for Abby unbeknownst of what she truly is. However, Abby at the same time is leading Owen on, but for what cause? Why is she taking to Owen? Things take a turn for the worse when Abby’s “father” tries to grab more blood for Abby by hiding in another teenager’s car but in an unfortunate turn of events, crashes the car down a snowy slope. It becomes a dire situation for the trapped father hearing the sirens not too far away. He decides to mask his identity and eliminating the trail back to Abby by dousing himself with acid to his face causing unrelenting pain and anguish. And this is what wraps us back up to the beginning scene. Abby hears about the father’s dilemma on radio from their apartment and takes a trip to the hospital as we the viewers watch her traverse up the front of the hospital and finds her “father’s” window.
In truly grotesque fashion we see the damage of what the acid has done to Abby’s “father’s” face. While no words are spoken, the father signals to Abby to perform a mercy killing and drinks his blood resulting him to fall to his death below. Abby climbs into Owen’s room and says, “she is not a girl, that she is nothing.” They share the bed and fall asleep. The next day Owen goes on a class trip and is cornered by the bullies who threaten to throw him into the icy water. Owen decides to grow a pair and give one of the bullies a taste of their own medicine by splitting his ear open with a nicely placed stick to the side of the head. While the bully cries like a little schoolgirl, a bunch of kids on the other side of the lake scream in terror as another body is uncovered underneath the ice, the poor neighbor of Owen who was a midnight snack for Abby a few nights prior and disposed of by Abby’s “father.”
The main detective tracks the death of the Owen’s neighbor back to him and his mother asking questions and snooping around the complex. Later that night Owen tells Abby about sticking up to his bully resulting in Abby to plant a big ol kiss on Owen. Owen brings her to a secret apartment vacant in the complex and asks her to make a blood pact with him. He slices his finger, which is a massive no-no to do in front of a blood-thirsty vampire child. Abby reveals herself to Owen in vampire form as she does in everything in her power to not attack Owen and runs off climbing a tree in the complex. One of the neighbors across from Owen walks with her dog and is attacked by Abby who is still on a blood high and goes for the jugular. Abby runs off and the neighbor’s boyfriend calls for help which results in more police, and that pesky detective hot on the trail.
When the detective gets more clues from the distraught boyfriend whose girlfriend was attacked by abby, the girlfriend goes up in flames when the nurse opens the curtain to a beautiful sunrise to start the day. The hospital room goes up in flames with both the nurse and girlfriend in it. Abby visits Owen but has not been “allowed” into his apartment. When Owen doesn’t “allow” Abby in and rather says just walk inside as not a formal acceptance Abby starts draining blood from within her own body until Owen says “Ok, come in, you can come in.” When you put two and two together from when Owen picks up a very dated picture of Abby alongside what appears to be “The father” but as a young, innocent child you start to think is Abby using these boys through her innocence and charm to lure them in as their guardians? Is this her ploy into keeping herself immortal and having these children eventually become killers so that she can feed? Does she display any type of love or affection towards them? The viewer is left to decide if she’s manipulative and selfish for her own survival.
When the detective narrows down the clues and finds out about the father’s address by showing a sketch to the widower of the girlfriend who turned into BBQ the morning of, he kicks down the door and finds Abby sleeping in the bathroom tub. Due to Abby’s eternal child-like state the detective considers her a potential trafficked-victim. Once he tears off the cardboard from the window potentially killing Abby, Owen screams, warning the detective but wakes up Abby in the process, jumps on the detective, making this case go cold in the process, literally she takes off in a taxi and tells Owen she’s got to go, and disappears in the snowy night. Owen is back to being alone.
The climax is where the movie reaches the intense meter to an all-time high. Those pesky bullies are back at it again, only this time the bully that lost half his ear gets his older brother in on the action. They stage a fire and lock the coach outside, and force the kids to leave the pool. Owen tries to run to his locker for a knife but that doesn’t work as he’s tossed into the pool. Owen not being the best swimmer has a hard time swimming to the surface, and when he does finally get to the edge of the pool, he’s confronted. Forced to breathe underwater for three minutes (honestly, who can even do that as a kid?) If he makes the time, he will only get a cut on his cheek, if he doesn’t, he loses an eye.
This scene alone is where terror comes in many forms. The feeling of helplessness, the feeling of drowning, the despair, the camera focusing on the clock, which isn’t moving fast enough for Owen to get up, those bullies potentially realizing they may be committing murder, the absolute silence, it’s all masterclass filmmaking with skin-boiling tension. But all that silence and tension shifts at the snap of a whip when glass breaks from above and a demonic scream comes crashing down in the gym. A trail glides across the pool water in rapid fashion. From Owen’s perspective in the pool, you see dismembered heads, a kid being dragged underwater upside down, hands, arms, legs, all sinking in the pool below with streams of blood all around him. It’s one of those amazing holy-shit moments in horror which is the ultimate chefs kiss to this film. The close-up shot of Owen staring at the camera, looking at his hero, ultimately cementing himself as Abby’s next guardian. We end this love story on a train where Owen has a chest with him and knocks on it, Abby on the inside knocking back. It’s that amazing love story that beats Romeo and Juliet, or Jack and Rose, hell throw in Bonnie and Clyde. Owen and Abby are just that power couple that most men and women strive to be. Sorry to Abby’s last guardian, Owen has you beat.
Let Me In’s ensemble is particularly impressive because it’s the child actors who propel the story forward. Chloe Grace Moretz plays the angelic, comforting, and nurturing Abby who uses her heart and charm to win over Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Owen by the time the credits roll. The audience will be left wondering what Abby’s grand plan with Owen really was? Was it to secure another chockfull of years using Owen as her own personal blood-bank? Or was it to live another lifetime with someone she could confide and love? Maybe it was both? Reminds me of my teenage years being carried along for a ride if you really ask me.
Richard Jenkin’s father/guardian role in this film is excellent as it is menacing. You can see hints of him begging for Abby’s affection throughout, clinging on to their bond as Abby starts shacking it up with Owen. He is the older mirror to that of Owen, but Abby knows that her guardian is becoming sloppier with age and tired, so she needs an alternative, even if that means letting him go in the process. Jenkins uses his role through emotion of the eyes – cold and focused. His mission is to serve Abby even if It is to kill at any means necessary. Jenkins provides this for such a minor yet significant role.
Dylan Minette, who plays that smug punk bully here, plays it wonderfully. A character you’re begging to just get his throat ripped out by the movie’s end, surprisingly Dylan plays an asshole well. Dylan is no stranger to horror, he’s been in many horror films such as Scream 5 as Marley Shelton’s son, Goosebumps, Don’t Breathe, and The Open House. He also plays the main character Clay Jenkins in 13 Reasons Why on Netflix, a complete opposite demeanor to that of his bully role in Let Me In.
Let Me In had a two-month production in New Mexico, with a critical reception of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. It was also placed in multiple critic’s top ten films of 2010, calling it a faithful remake of the original Swedish film. John Nordling and Carl Molinder, both producers of the original film were brought on board to be producers of this remake. Let Me In grossed 24 million on a 20 million budget, breaking even. Even if it didn’t turn up a profit, Let Me In is still one of those perfectly executed remakes that stand the test of time. Matt Reeve’s honors the original while also putting his own style to the film. I strongly feel Let Me In is one of the better adapted vampire flicks in this ever-growing, ever-evolving sub-genre. It’s an intimate tale between both boy and girl except that girl may be close to a thousand years old. Let Me In has amazing cinematography by the incredible Greig Fraser, who also serves as the cinematographer of Matt Reeve’s The Batman. It has impeccable substance and style due to the directing efforts of Matt Reeves. It has a star-studded cast with all actors still prominent in Hollywood today. A great setting in Icy, snowy New Mexico. And lastly a terrifically woven script that plays with the minds of its viewers. Just like Owen are we being strung along for Abby’s own selfishness? Or do we want to know what it’s like to have true companionship and to feel first love again in its own twisted way? Maybe it’s a bit of both and we just need to go along for the ride even if that ride could lead to inevitable tragedy, just like Abby’s guardian. What a sucker you are Owen.
A couple previous episodes of the Best Horror Movie You Never Saw series can be seen below. To see more, and to check out some of our other shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/let-me-in-best-horror/