Wednesday 19 December 2012


(Matt Reeves, 2010)

It's really only when you encounter the work of a really natural visual storyteller that the amount of directors who have no real facility with the visual aspect of cinema becomes clear. So many directors are efficient, telling a story by putting the camera in a position which effectively captures the action. Then there are directors who strain themselves seeking a ceaseless stream of beautiful shots - artful composition follows dazzling palette follows ostentatious camera movement...
And then you have someone like Matt Reeves, who with Let Me In, a remake of the superb Swedish horror Let The Right One In from 2008, suggests that he knows exactly how to tell a story with words and moving pictures.
Every shot in this film is beautiful in one way or other. Greig Fraser, the cinematographer, has been doing some stunning work lately, but Let Me In might remain his loveliest performance behind the camera. Reeves combines that beauty with a pleasing economy - he chooses the best shots to move his story forward, and each shot follows the last with clockwork precision. Thats not to say the storytelling here is predictable. On the contrary, its often surprising, even thrilling in its arty emphasis upon atmospherics and mood. All this, and there is even a little visual poetry in the films portrayal of wintry Los Alamos, mostly by night, the snow reflecting various sickly shades of yellow and green.
The plot simplifies and pares down what Alfredson's original took from the source novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, and in doing so, for me, fractionally surpasses that film. This may lack the genuine sense of otherness in the Swedish version, but it is more melancholy, more morally complex and more frightening.
The story is the same: in Los Alamos in the early 1980s, a lonely, horrendously bullied boy,  Owen (Kody Smit-McPhee) meets his strange new neighbour, Abby (Chloë Moretz), who has recently arrived with an older man who appears to be her father (Richard Jenkins). At the same time a local Police Detective (Elias Koteas) is investigating the murder of a local youth, found hanging from a tree, all his blood drained from his body. As Owen and Abby grow closer, he learns that she doesn't feel the cold, never comes out in the daytime, and doesn't eat any normal food...
Using vampirism as a metaphor for the pains of adolescence isn't a new idea, but it is particularly well done here. The bullying in this film is portrayed with real authenticity - it is awful, terrifying and senseless - and that, together with Smit-McPhee's understated, numbed performance, gives the seemingly minor tribulations of Owen's home and school life great power. The tension in each of the scenes where he is confronted by the bullies is brutal, giving the more outlandish scenes of the supernatural a very different, eerie charge. Reeves pulls off a couple of stunning set pieces: the scene where everything goes wrong for Jenkins' character on a trip to harvest some blood is magnificent; thrillingly executed and extremely clever in conception, and the swimming pool climax is similarly masterly.
The '80s are subtly evoked, the performances are all quietly excellent and the tension established in the prologue never really lessens, right up to the epilogue, which is beautifully ambiguous and tinged with melancholy.

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