Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins
Directed by: Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”)
Written by: Matt Reeves (“The Yards”)
Let’s imagine for a moment that the 2008 Swedish horror masterpiece “Let the Right One In” did not exist. How would its American counterpart “Let Me In” perform without the pressure of having to live up to its predecessor? How do you enhance something that was already considered by most as exceptional cinema?
From the start, “Let Me In” finds itself in an uphill battle with purists. It might be a film that didn’t necessarily need to be remade (other than to introduce the story to mainstream American audiences who would squirm at the idea of having to read subtitles), but on its own merit it’s still executed strikingly well.
Following the Dutch script rather closely, “Let Me In” tells the story of Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a 12-year-old boy living in small town New Mexico in the 1980s who befriends a peculiar girl of the same age when she moves into his apartment complex with her father (Richard Jenkins).
Abby (Chloe Moretz) is pleasant enough, but immediately lets Owen know they can’t be friends. As the mystery builds we find out Abby – although she doesn’t refer to herself as a vampire – needs blood to survive. Her father provides her with the sustenance she needs to survive by slinking out into the dead of night to commit murder. A local policeman (Elias Koteas) begins to investigate when drained bodies start turning up in the snow.
While Abby hungers, Owen has his own personal problems. A trio of bullies is making his life miserable at school. His mother, who is suffering from depression triggered by her divorce, is emotionally distant (director Reeves decides to keep her face hidden from the audience for all her scenes). Abby becomes the only person he can confide in.
It’s evident how much Reeves loves the original film. There is a different type of eeriness in his version, but it works just the same. The original film was starker. “Let Me In” takes more cues from the horror/thriller genre. Reeves also uses an incredible score by Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino to build the tension to threatening levels. The silly CGI (something the original does not use) knocks “Let Me In” down a few notches, but we’ll chalk it up as one of necessary evils used to help Americanize it.
It will be interesting to see how U.S. audiences react to the slow pacing and serious attention given to the subtleties of young love. For horror fans looking for buckets of blood a la “30 Days of Night” or for tweens hoping to get something to hold them over until “Breaking Dawn,” “Let Me In” won’t be that movie. It’s stylish and artful, not clichéd or hokey. And if “Let the Right One In” never existed, it would have hit a lot harder.
Starring: Michael Stahl-David, Odette Yustman, Lizzy Caplan
Directed by: Matt Reeves (“The Pallbearer”)
Written by: Drew Goddard (debut)
In an age where idiotic creature features like “Primeval” and “Skinwalkers” are getting greenlit for production, you have to be a bit surprised when someone actually gets it right. Sure, the new monster flick “Cloverfield” is a bit gimmicky with its delivery, but make no doubts about it, it’s an entertaining addition to the genre.
Set in New York City (like a number of monster movies of the past), “Cloverfield” opens with a group of young adults throwing a going-away party for their friend Rob Hawkins (Stahl-David), who has accepted a job in Japan and will be leaving the next day.
The get-together gets a bit dramatic when Rob’s best friend Beth (Yustman), who he recently realized he has fallen in love with, brings a date with her to bid him adieu. Words are said that can’t be taken back and before you know it, Beth and her new man leave the party in a haste.
All the while, Rob’s friend Hud (T.J. Miller), has been capturing all the action on a camcorder (possibly for a YouTube upload after the party is over?). Despite the early fireworks, Hud and everyone else in the Manhattan area hasn’t seen the big show of the night just yet.
Minutes later, the partygoers are startled when the apartment they are in begins to shake. They head for the roof of the building to get a better look when the local news reports an oil tanker has capsized near the Statue of Liberty. “Do you think it’s another terrorist attack?” a scared individual says as they climb the stairs to see the destruction.
As they peer across the city – and as Hud continues to videotape – a building in the center of N.Y. explodes. Everyone runs back downstairs and scatters into the streets. When the head of the Statue of Liberty is thrown into the fracas, things take a turn for the worst.
An enormous Godzilla-like monster has found its way into the city and is destroying everything in its path. Rob and a small group of friends find their way out of the neighborhood as fires blaze and buildings crumble.
Instead of following the military’s orders to evacuate the Manhattan area, Rob is persistent about finding Beth. Although they have nothing invested in his love-struck and heroic plan, the rest of the group decides to follow him and hope for the best as they weave through the middle of the war zone.
Taking a voyeuristic angle to the film (Hud’s camera work tells the whole story), screenwriter Drew Goddard (TV’s “Lost”) keep the story intense and fast-paced for the quick 90-minute runtime. Although there is not much of a human element or emotional stronghold in the entire thing, the film delivers on what it has promised from its marketing campaign. We’ve seen it before when the White House is annihilated in “Independence Day” or when the Statue of Liberty is buried in snow in “The Day After Tomorrow,” but “Cloverfield” has enough of a distinctive purpose for the genre to make it something fun and terrifying to witness from the outside in.