Bidula’s Last Word – Let Me In

Yeah, I’ve been taking some time off. I’m back. Fights will be back soon as well. Figured I needed to give it a rest before it jumps the shark. Also, a rest before the UBotUT.

I had the good fortune to be invited by friends to attend an advance screening of Let Me In. I should have probably written this review when it was still relatively relevant and new, but I figured I had time. Let Me In is one of those movies that people don’t necessarily rush to the theater to see. It’s not a blockbuster by any means. The only star power draw it has belongs to Chloe Moritz, known in fanboy circles as Hit Girl from Kick-Ass. Oh, and it’s billed “from the director of Cloverfield”, letting the horror crowd know that if you liked that giant lump, you might like this, too.

That’s not to say that Let Me In is, in fact, a giant lump.

The story takes place in New Mexico in 1983 where is seems to be perpetually cold and snowy (?!?). Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), the main character, is a mousey little twelve-year-old who, at first, seems almost unrelatably creepy. When you first meet him, you glimpse his incredibly depressing existence followed shortly by him standing shirtless in his bedroom wearing a clear plastic Reagan mask and thrusting a kitchen knife at a full length mirror while saying: “You like that, little girl? Huh?” shortly before proceeding to his telescope and spying through his neighbors’ windows.

Already, I’m thinking train wreck. Visions of Gus Van Sant’s Elephant danced in my head. I’m thinking this is going in a much darker direction than even the trailers indicated. You later find out the issues behind the kid’s particular bent and you almost empathize with him. Still, he starts off on shaky ground as far as relatable protagonists go.

Oh, and it was dark. Not necessarily as dark as all that, but very dark none the less.

While peering through his neighbors windows, Owen catches sight of a girl about his age moving into the apartment complex with who we assume must be her father. The next night, the two meet in the snowed over (it’s the freaking DESERT!!!) courtyard. The girl shows up as Owen stares creepily off into the distance, wearing no shoes, and introduces herself by saying “I can’t be your friend.” A very awkward exchange.

As the nights go on, Abby (Moritz) continues to visit Owen in the courtyard, eventually becoming a very good friend to him and, after the death of her “keeper” for lack of a better term, confesses to him that she is, indeed, a vampire.

I won’t blow any more of the plot line for those of you who are interested. I’ve pretty much told you everything the trailers have except for the Reagan mask thing and the snow in the desert thing.

I am still sort of on the fence about this movie. I’ve given it a week to sink in and, really, I’m still not sure of how I feel about it.

At first, I hated it. It’s a very suspenseful movie but not in the sense that the plot actually leaves you hanging. It’s suspenseful in the way that is annoying to someone like me. You know exactly what’s going to happen, but it takes ten minutes worth of score building as the character walks down the hallway and opens the door. You know what’s behind that door. It’s plainly obvious. You know that something is going to happen when that door is opened, either immediately or after a minute or so of investigation. It was tough to sit there, especially because I had killed a giant-ass Coke by the end of the first half hour and had to pee for the duration of the movie, and watch things that are cinematically inevitable take much longer than they should to occur.

For this, I blame the direction. When I came in to the movie, I wasn’t expecting something with such an arthouse feel. Then again, I’m not a connoisseur of horror as are some of my friends who revealed to me that this was a direct remake of a Swedish arthouse horror flick. Made sense when I thought about it. Typically, I dislike foreign arthouse horror for this exact reason – it takes too damn long for something to happen.
Seriously, I could have taken catnaps between lines of dialogue and not missed anything. Some shots seems to go on forever and some sequences, as I mentioned, are excruciating.

I loved the acting. Kid actors sort of acting like adults while still maintaining that childhood curiosity and confusion is a big hit with me, especially when they make it feel real. Owen is a bullied kid of a divorced couple and you really see that sort of quiet desperation in his performance. By the end of the movie, he really does inspire genuine empathy with the audience.
For Moritz, it’s the evolution of Abby from truly cold to generally warm which she does quite well.
Really, everyone else in the flick is sort of an also ran, turning in just enough to get by, but that’s ok when the story really centers on the kids.

I also loved the concept. It kind of reminds me of Claudia from the Vampire Chronicles if she hadn’t been executed in Paris. You find yourself wondering exactly how old Abby is. You’re left to assume through clues that she’s been around in her current form since at least the 1950s, but I liked to think she was much, much older. Really, though, great idea.

The only other downside to this flick came after the fact.
I knew that it was originally a book, I knew that the Swedes had made it into a flick just two shot years ago, but I didn’t realize until I read a side-by-side comparison, that this isn’t another adaptation of the same book as the Swedish version. Critics and horror buffs are saying that this is damn near theft. It’s almost a direct lift with better production value, according to a few articles. I’ll have to see it for myself before I can judge that, but I had enough trouble sitting through this movie in English. It would rank somewhere between waterboarding and electroshock to watch the same movie, again, in Swedish, with subtitles.

BORK BORK BORK! *ahem* Excuse me.

Bidula’s Last Word: 6/10

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

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