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.

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