“Let Me In”
3 out of 4 stars
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Moretz, Richard Jenkins and Elias Koteas.
Now playing at the West Theatre.
If there’s one thing that horror movies like “Carrie” and “The Craft” have taught us, it’s that picking on the weird kid in your class will end badly for you, a tried and true lesson that is furthered in the spine-tingling scare show “Let Me In.”
In 1983 Los Alamos, N.M., life is not happy for 12-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee). His mother (Cara Buono) barely wants him around, his father has virtually no connection with him, and school is just a series of beatings and death threats from his classmate Kenny (Dylan Minnette).
With no friends, he is relegated to spending time by himself in the courtyard of his apartment complex and spying on his neighbors, including a new girl (Chloë Moretz) about his age named Abby.
At first, Owen has no interest in befriending the quiet girl, who has too many eccentricities like not wearing any shoes in the dead of winter and only leaving her apartment after the sun sets. Plus, her father (Richard Jenkins) is even odder and can be heard yelling through the wall at all hours of the night.
Soon, Owen and Abby become close despite their standoffishness, but Owen is unsure how he feels about his new friend when he learns what the yelling is all about and where Abby’s father disappears to every night, a secret that could have some dire consequences.
Kids are creepy in all horror movies, no matter what they’re doing. In Owen’s case, it’s acting out his aggressions by stabbing at a tree and pretending it’s his bully. Still, Smit-McPhee retains the same kind of sensitivity that he showed in his groundbreaking role as the nameless, nomadic boy in “The Road.”
Moretz is also silently scary as the girl who becomes his confidante and eventual girlfriend, who doesn’t share Owen’s proclivity for Now and Later candy, preferring a more sanguine diet. Jenkins is eerie as her exhausted guardian, who has to stalk and kill people around town to feed her cravings, relying on the tactic of wearing a garbage bag over his head and hiding in the backseat of cars.
Yet, even with all this carnage happening, Minnette manages to be just as terrifying as Owen’s persecutor, who in turn only behaves the way he does as the result of living with a psychotic older brother (Brett DelBuono).
The increasing lack of familial closeness during the Reagan years is amplified in this American remake of the Swedish movie “Let the Right One In.” There’s a disheartening solitude in Owen’s life, due in no small part to his parent’s lack of involvement, with his father only heard over the phone and his mother’s face never clearly glimpsed.
But, if there’s one thing that movies about the undead feature prominently, it’s alienation.
After a slew of vampire films that make up the rules as they go along, it’s nice to see one that adheres to the tenets of vampirism, such as a deathly allergy to sunlight and not being allowed to enter a victim’s home without permission.
And, the fact that the vampire in this case is only 5 feet tall and has a voice like a newborn kitten only makes it all the more unsettling.
“Let Me In” is a good horror movie in terms of being able to creep out an audience, but it’s even better in the realistic portrayal of adolescence that it conveys.
If the makers of the original “Dracula” had thought to set it in middle school, who knows how much scarier it would be.
Now playing at West Theatre.