Screening Log #23: Let Me In (2010)

Written by Matt Reeves based on John Ajvide Lindqvist’s screenplay/novel Let the Right One In
Directed by Matt Reeves
Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Richard Jenkins

 

 

 

Matt Reeves’ American re-framing of Thomas Alfredson and John Ajvide Lindquist’s Let the Right One In, Let Me In, maintains a connection to the tone of its source material while opening it to deeper resonances of meaning and consumption – pardon the pun – for an American audience. Reeves relocates the action of the film to New Mexico, circa 1983, utilizing this setting for more than its nostalgic soundtrack and aesthetic gestures.

Let Me In begins with a hospital-bound acid-burn patient while a broadcast of Ronald Reagan’s speech from 1983 detailing the “Evil Empire” is reflected in a door. Reagan, in the excerpt from this speech states that “There is sin and evil in the world … Our nation, too, has a legacy of evil with which is must deal”. Most overtly this excerpt can be read to indicate the evil of vampirism present in the film, but Reeves’ cannily opens his film to allow for this to be interpreted as pertaining also to quieter elements of unease: the dissolution of the nuclear family, bullying, the isolation of adolescence, the uncertainty of gender identity, etc.

As with Let the Right One In, Let Me In is acutely aware of the horror implicit in the onset of adolescence and how the absence of a parental guiding force and/or peer group enhances the potential sense of exclusion and vulnerability. The relationship between Owen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and the deceptively young Abby, Chloë Grace Moretz, exploits this situation to complicate notions of gender and, later, parental relationships. Abby seems to be a twelve-year-old girl when she meets the lonely and bullied Owen after moving into his apartment complex with her “father”, an elderly man played by Richard Jenkins. Reeves embeds the film with many instances indicating Owen’s blooming sexuality as his vision often lingers over older women. Owen’s desire is compounded by his position as a figure with a tenuous parental connection due to a recent divorce and his mother’s reactionary drinking. Abby initially presents herself as a young woman with whom Own can connect and later becomes – when her age as a vampire is revealed – an ersatz parental figure.

Both Owen and Abby are presented androgynously by the film, their physical features and personalities similarly both feminine and masculine at times. The vampire’s appeal has often been rooted in its ability to be both masculine and feminine; that Owen reacts so nonchalantly when Abby confesses that she is not a girl, rather is “nothing”, in her vampirism, the construction of gender is made explicit. That these issues are situated in the elastic and mutable days of adolescence, where sexuality and personality are still being formed, is the most perceptive part of both Let Me In and Let the Right One In. While each film may deploy subtly difference strategies in different settings, it is this deployment and inversion of traditional vampire tropes that provides universally rich soil to lay the corpse of adolescence in.

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