Let Me In has one of the most engaging openings and following hospital sequences in a horror film since Zombie’ Halloween 2. Its intense and utilizes less-is-more, exemplified in Jaws and From Hell, a modus operandi seldom brought to bare in the wake of Torture Horror and the remakes of horror classics. Directors and studios seem to feel the need to show and tell the viewer everything instead of letting the viewer’s mind do some of the work and fill in the gaps.
For the first twenty minutes or so, Let Me In does just that and relies on the viewer’s mind.
Pall street and courtyard lights, the light of dawn and realization are always present during the film. The diseased opaqueness, skin yellowing corpse sickness, and the random Star Trek-like lens flares, are all stories told by certain scene’s lighting in the film. Some of these are harbingers of what awaits Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) if he continues down the path that he is on with Abby (Chloe Moretz). The aforementioned lighting surrounds the two of them at most times, the outside world kept at the outskirts of their universe.
This cinematic heads-up is a consistent backdrop for key relationship scenes in the film. The world at large is filtered in Matt Reeves’ film. We hear and see President Ronald Reagan, sense The Cold War and the United States’ isolation, and the faces of Owen’s parents are rarely seen if ever, directly in proportion to their presence in his life. Even when Owen reaches out to one of his parents, it’s misinterpreted, furthering his isolation.
The theme of isolation is also present behind character’ actions and motivations. Multiple scenes have Owen’s wall, covered with a large photo of the Moon, as a backdrop. He communicates through that quite isolation to Abby, who symbolically and physically awaits on the other side. This was likely intentional by Reeves, a shrewd visual analogy to their situation.
Even more so in Reeves’s adaptation, Owen’s growing darkness is showcased as the effects of bullying slowly corrupt him. A scrapbook of murder-death-kills from the novel is replaced by an identity concealing mask and an unsettling mirror scene.
Like the mask, viewers had to admire Reeves putting his stamp on John Ajvide Lindqvist’s story: The killings taking place in cars, the US, Regan-era setting (the 80’s vibe of the film is light, dabbed at but not thrown in the viewer’s face), the subplots of the book being excised, Owen’s bullying having a root cause, and the added gore. What didn’t ameliorate the proceedings were the vampire eyes from Blade Trinity being added or the use of a CGI Abby during confrontations. This is where Reeves faltered; forsaking the less-is-more approach he had adopted with brilliance earlier in the film. The CGI Abby was awkward, obvious, and jarring, taking the viewer out of the story, with the Beavis and Butthead phrase bouncing through their cortex: “These effects aren’t very special.” In Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation, it was all done with live actors because they didn’t have the budget for those types of effects and the film was better off without them. Like Reeves’ brilliant beginning, less-is-more is carried out through the entirety of Alfredson’s film.
Heavy-handedness replaces that in Reeves’ film. Off-screen is moved on-screen. As was mentioned in Inception, the mind is powerful, most especially when its dreaming, imagining. Reeves lost sight of this part-way through his adaptation.
Matt Reeves’ Let Me In is an adaptation that bravely adds some new to an adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s book but misses the mark, a two-course meal compared to Alfredson’s five courses.