This film review contains spoiler.
What is the one single exhausted notion that flooded popular novels, television and films for the past decade, yet both authors and directors had yet to grow tired of? Aliens? Close, but not quite accurate in terms of the time frame. Superheroes? Well, yes ─ if you regard American Heroism as one single general notion. But what I am referring to is more specific ─ so specific that you can name its traits almost mindlessly and everyone in the room will still know what exactly you are talking about. Yes, you got it. Dark, damned beings that resemble human beings in every possible way except lacking humanity itself, with their relentless thirst for blood and instinct to kill, the vampires are easily the popular culture industry’s most popular, yet tiresome golden goose last decade.
Since the success of Stephanie Meyers’ vampire-themed The Twilight Saga novel and its subsequent film adaptations, the novel, film and television industry have never seen more productions of the genre ever. HBO’s True Blood, The CW’s The Vampire Diaries, P.C Cast’s House of Night…you name it. However, if you think Director Matt Reeve’s Let Me In, an English adaptation of the original Swedish vampire-themed novel Let the Right One In (Swedish: Låt den rätte komma in) and the 2008 Swedish film adaptation, is just another familiar vampire story that piles up the line, think again. Indeed, this heartbreakingly dark and melancholy romance-thriller explores the vampire theme in such depths, and with such an exquisite touch that it not only effortlessly stands out among its dominant commercially-made peers, but is also so refreshing and mesmerizing that it may just make you fall, once again, for the genre.
The story begins with a bizarrely chilling and intriguing prologue, which immediately sets the overwhelmingly dark and eccentric tone of the story: in 1981, at a quiet suburb town in New Mexico, a severely burnt and disfigured criminal suspect was hospitalized, and shortly after the police’s vain attempt of interrogating him, was found dead ten stories below─ apparently having jumped out the windows of the ward ─ and left only a hand-written note which hinted at the presence of an “Abby” when the incident happened.
The bizarrely tragic tone did not end there; on the contrary it continued to amplify as the plot rolled on. Soon we learnt that the male protagonist, Owen,was a lonesome fatherless eleven-year-old boy who lives with his ever-absent divorcing mother. He was also a regular victim of the more-than-mischievous kind of school bullying. Cornered and helpless, the boy could do nothing more than peeping into his indifferent neighbours’ private lives through a telescope in his little secluded room. He was even desperate enough to comfort himself by imagining himself as the bully ─ by wearing an ugly mask, holding a knife and threatening a non-existent ‘little girl’ ─ until he met Abby, a mysterious girl who just moved in next door with her father in midnight. Although her first words to him was “Just so you know, I can’t be your friend. It’s just the way it is.”, the two awkward social outcasts were soon drawn close by each other’s deeply-rooted loneliness. The plot thickens as the unfolding of events points more and more toward the inhuman truth about Owen’s newly found romantic interest.
The American director Matt Reeves has made himself absolutely clear ─ and soon enough ─ that he had no intention of making another Twilight, or any vampire-romance-flick for that matter, which so often takes full advantage of the charisma of “vampires” ─ immortal, mysterious, incredibly charming and seductive ─ while always managing to harness their inconvenient killing instinct, so that all our “good” charming vampires always happen to retain just enough heartwarming humanity inside their cold bodies and never pose any threat to compromise our love for them. This is, refreshingly, not the case in Let Me In. Although the story’s vampire, played by remarkably talented Chloë Grace Moretz, does still retain some human traits ─ her pretty looks (which lasts as long as she is sufficiently-fed and remains in human form) and her ability to have an endearing love affair with our poor little protagonist ─ she is no human. Vampires, as depicted in this realistically dark tale, are what they are supposed to be ─ damned, evil beings which kill humans (sorry not animals) and devour their blood to live, unable to enter a human’s home without his consent or will uncontrollably bleed to perishment, and instead of shining charmingly, will burn almost instantly into ashes under sunlight. The film does not explain the origin of Abby ─ whether she is created or turned vampire ─ but even though we are just allowed to glimpse the way she lives, it is evident that she is not the kind of “vampires” in Twilight ─ which are in essence human in the pretty disguise of vampires.
In retrospect, the beauty of this melancholy vampire-themed story, which originated from Sweden, lies in its very bold depiction of vampires as evil blood-drinking monsters ─ and the resulting moral conflicts in liking, or even connecting with Abby, the vampire. Loving a vampire has never been so easy ─ with Moretz’s charm ─ and so hard at once ─ just look at the terrifyingly tragic end of the nameless man who literally killed for his love for her. As the film leads us through the well-structured narrative, which keeps alternating between the heart-warming romance of the “innocent” pair ,and the cold-blooded brutal attacks and murders, it seems inevitable to find ourselves touched and smiling at one moment, while assaulted and screaming the next. Overall, the story succeeds in mesmerizing the audience by putting them in the very dilemma the timid little Owen faced ─ inevitably falling for Abby, while reluctantly learning and needing to face the dark nature of her existence.
Whether you are a fan of the vampire genre, with its solid plot, remarkable acting and exquisitely sad aura, Let Me In may just surprise you ─ in its pleasant and less pleasant ways. It is one ride you will, at worst, not regret having taken; if you happen to be a fan of dark romance-thriller like me, this overlooked, one-of-a-kind gem will probably be one you celebrate for discovery, and take pleasure in revisiting from time to time.