The Brown Shoe Diaries Halloween Movie Club. Track down today’s movie and post your comments. Good? Lame? Scary? Not scary? Bring it.
Today’s recommended feature is:
Let Me In (2010, d. Matt Reeves)
I think it’s bad that vampires have lost their pseudo-European offbeatness. Dracula was a genuine weirdo who slept all day in a creeky coffin. The Count on Sesame Street suffers from a common manifestation of OCD, uncontrollably counting things, and yet he is never compelled to clean his cobweb quilted castle. Lestat and Louis from Interview With A Vampire want the same legal rights afforded to corporeal couples, but they also want to live as artists in The French Quarter and raise their immortal daughter on human flesh. Now, because of Buffy, Twilight and oodles of copy-bats, vampires have become all vamp and no bite. They drive Volvos and wear Burberry. I understand Twlight’s hip Cullen kids are frequently spotted living-it-up at Seattle Marriner’s night games (although they are invisible on the Diamond Vision screen). Maybe all that is why it seemed relevant to the fillmakers of Let Me In to set it in suburban New Mexico, early 1980’s. Perhaps they wanted to construct a feeling of innocence and nostalgia. Maybe they wanted to take us back to a time when vampirin’ wasn’t cool.
12 year old Owen’s nerdy kidness will be familiar to all because we all knew one or were one like him. His hair is greasy. He looks permanently sewn in to his oversize, dirty, fake-fur parka. He’s smaller than his classmates and frequently the object of ridicule and pummelings on behalf of a trio of school bullies. Owen and his single mother live in a rundown apartment complex. He has little to do but spy on his neighbors through a toy telescope. One snowy, winter evening Owen watches a barefoot girl, about his age, moving her box of possessions into the unit next door with the help of an unkempt, middle-aged man. Slowly, over several night time encounters in the apartment courtyard, the girl, Abby, starts up an awkward friendship and juvenile romance with Owen, over the objections of the man. Owen begins to figure out that Abby is not what she appears to be but rather an ageless vampire in the body of a twelve year old. The unkempt man is not Abby’s father either, but rather her longtime mortal consort, dating back to his own childhood. His duty is to look after Abby by going about the murders of young men. He collects their blood in a plastic bottle and keep his vampire mistress fed. Eventually the man’s nocturnal activities are accidentally exposed. He dies and the trail of murders leads back to the apartment. Abby must move on, although she helps Owen in a final violent showdown with the school bullies.
Let Me In is a loyal remake of the sucessful Swedish movie Let The Right One In from 2008. In terms of story and tone the two movies are nearly idential and both are great, although I think the American remake offers some important improvements. I find the child actors in the American remake to better actors, and there is a more convincing, eerie chemistry between them. Also, the Swedish version employs an ill fitting sub-plot about a group of local alcoholics who are both victims of the vampire misdeeds and the source of public exposure. In Let Me In, that group is swaped out completely for a gritty homicide detective who is putting together the clues of the murders. This makes it more crime-thriller. Also, the American version of this movie folds in an interesting homoerotic subtext that brings some texture not present in the first version. Owen is confused about his male image, particularly in his associations with the bullies, whose taunt him as a wimp and call him “little girl.” Abby is confused with her feelings toward Owen, saying that she is neither a girl nor or boy. And the man stalks active young men for Abby, when more yielding victims could be easier prey.
A mild objection I have is over the choice of setting for Let Me In. It makes sense to me that vampires who burn up in sunlight travel to long Swedish winters where they might not even see sunlight for a few months out of the year. Los Alimos, New Mexico averages 310 days of sunshine a year. Look it up.
Both movies succeed in telling a compelling and sad story that leaves fascinating mysteries to the imagination. Why does the man object to the children’s friendship? He may be acting like a jealous lover or he could be protecting Owen from Abby and the circumstance that befell his own youth. Does the middle-aged man risk the danger in murdering young men because that’s what Abby prefers, or is he acting out on some projected self-loathing, or even sexual frustration? Does Abby really love Owen or is she killing him softly, selfishly grooming him to become her new life paramour? The viewers are challenged with these unanswered questions and by the morality in our sympathy toward Abby. She is a pretty, 12 year old girl, who is also a human predator. Yet, her station is to live forever, from consort to consort, in an unforgiving existential transience – a shattered, improverished eternity. The Cullen’s are Whole Foods. Abby will always be strictly whole blood.
Let The Right One In (2008, d. Thomas Alfredson)