Quietly unleashed on the American public in 2008, the Swedish vampire thriller Let the Right One In entered a marketplace saturated with sexy bloodsuckers and made them all look like clowns. Based on John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel about a lonely adolescent boy who befriends a forever-young vampire girl, Let the Right One In exchanged the notion of the vampire lifestyle as exquisite romantic torture for a gritty, nuanced portrait of a life lived in eternal pursuit of fresh blood, in all of its repellant drudgery. The film was also deeply, wonderfully frightening, as its Louis-Malle-meets-John-Hughes-styled scenes erupted into horrifying violence, all of it captured with elegant artistry. Let the Right One In became an internationally beloved vampire classic; it's also the rare scary movie that's a great film.
So now here's Let Me In, aka "the American remake of Let the Right One In," a phrase that rightly conjures fears of diminished subtlety, injected cheese, and general crapifying. Let these fears arise as they must, then put them aside and get your ass to the theater, because against all odds and historical precedent, the American remake is as good as the original.
Let Me In (that's what the English translation of the book is called) is directed by Matt Reeves, cocreator of TV's Felicity and director of the 2008 horror hit Cloverfield, and he claims both the Swedish film and its instigating novel as source materials. Relocating the story from Blackeberg, Sweden, to Los Alamos, New Mexico, Reeves retains the original's early-'80s setting and hugely effective terseness—characters say what they have to and little more, and the violence is life-size and painfully humane. Knowing he's attempting to clone a sacred cow, Reeves handles his duties with great care and imagination, and, somewhat miraculously, creates a film that will thrill lovers of the original as well as huge new audiences. The cast—led by well-directed tweens Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee—is brilliant. The relocation to America pays off in unexpectedly chilling ways, and the film's quiet, pitch-black heart survives the transplant. It's an amazing thing.