September 15, 2010
TIFF 2010: On "Let Me In"
The logo for the refurbished Hammer Films that opens Let Me In is a little like the one for Marvel Films, only images of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing flutter past instead of Spider-Man and other "-men." I think it may have caused me to squee, as the girls say. The movie itself doesn't labour to honour the Hammer legacy per se--I had secretly hoped it'd find room for at least one slutty Victorian barmaid--but it does reverentially emulate its key source, the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In, which Walter Chaw and I had on our Top 10 lists for that year. That Let Me In doesn't feel synthetic like Gus Van Sant's Psycho redux is something of a miracle; xenophobic viewers will get to have an experience roughly analogous to the original in tone as well as content--but do they deserve it? Me, I found it a pleasant sort of déjà vu, with Richard Jenkins and Elias Koteas--ringers, both, in the final analysis--brilliantly cast as twin avatars of middle-aged pathos. Jenkins barely utters a line yet steals the show as the reluctant star of his own slasher movie (which has a curious resonance, given that the film is set in the genre's heyday of 1983), and writer-director Matt Reeves gifts him with the film's best (and most innovative) sequence, a white-knuckle car chase shot entirely from the back seat of an automobile. In the lead role of Oskar, née Owen, Kodi Smit-McPhee appears to be genuinely, heartbreakingly smitten with co-star Chloe Moretz, who initially struck me as too polished, too actressy, dare I say too pretty (between this and Hit Girl, I see a few too many Hinckleys in her future), though as Let Me In wears on, these qualities start to seem designed--she's a shrewder, if not preferable, take on a character who is, after all, grooming a replacement for her lackey. The bullying sequences are highly visceral, Greig Fraser's anamorphic cinematography captures the bleak Los Alamos winter without falling into colour-coded cliché (even as it's hamstrung by Reeves's prosaic shot-reverse-shot strategies), and...it's a little thing, but...the picture gets 1983 right, down to wholly ineffable details like body language. Reeves cut "the shot" (you know the one I'm talking about), but I actually don't blame him. If the mass exodus at my press screening during Moretz's first attack on an innocent is any indication, he's already fighting an uphill battle against the prigs. ***/****