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Posts Tagged ‘Let Me In’

When I’m choosing what to go and see at the cinema – all other things being equal and finances permitting – sometimes it’s based on the track record of the director or star, more often on the story or the genre involved, and most frequently of all it’s a combination of all these things and a few more (good reviews from the right people and a winning trailer can’t hurt). And yet this week I found myself going to the pictures simply because of a brand name.
 
Whatever else is true of the current operators of Hammer Films, there’s no continuity of personnel with the company’s classic period. The company exists essentially as a marque, and one with a tremendous reputation in the horror and suspense genres. As such one should surely be deeply suspicious of this attempt to purchase the goodwill of long-term horror fans.
Yet, having said that, when the new animated Hammer logo (trading heavily on past glories, but with Raquel Welch rather more prominent than Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee – I am frowning as I type) came up the other night I felt an undeniable frisson. I’ve seen nearly fifty classic Hammers, but none of them in an actual theatre (unforgivably, I missed the chance to catch The Vampire Lovers at the arthouse cinema in Hull in 1995). The film it was showing before was Matt Reeves’ Let Me In.

Set in a wintry New Mexico in the early 1980s, the story revolves around Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a lonely young boy with terrible hair, living a fairly miserable life. His parents are in the process of divorcing and he is savagely bullied at school. The faintest glimmer of hope appears when he starts to befriend Abby (Chloe Moretz), a young girl who’s just moved into the same building. At the same time, however, corpses drained of blood begin to be found in the area, and it quickly becomes clear that in at least one respect this movie has a very strong connection to Hammer’s past – the undead are on the loose!

To say much more would be to spoil the movie for anyone unfamiliar with this story, which would be a great shame as this is a terrifically accomplished film. Reeves is probably best known for Cloverfield, which I thought was technically stunning but narratively rather vacuous – here he scores in every department, creating and sustaining a consistently ominous and unsettling atmosphere, with moments of remarkable tension along the way. He’s not afraid to break out the CGI in places, but oddly enough it’s at these moments that the film is least successful – the action sequences are convincing enough, but so frantic they’re rather at odds with the rest of the movie. (Exempt from this is the climax, which manages to be spectacular and understated at the same time.) He gets naturalistic and rather touching performances from the two young lead performers, and handles their relationship with great delicacy – probably quite wisely, given this movie could have been rather provocative if done wrong.

The only very small brick I would throw at the script is that the detective (played by Elias Koteas) investigating the murders seems a little slow on the uptake – if you’re investigating a string of murders where the victims are drained of blood, and someone in the area is bitten in the throat one night, and then said person spectacularly immolates when exposed to sunlight directly in front of you – well, you’d have to be Inspector Clouseau not to start putting two and two together.

 
 

 

'You've got red on you.'

 

Apart from that, this is a thoughtful and affecting film. To me it seemed to be about the transcendent power of love and things it can make people do – but at the same time it’s deeply ambiguous about this. On the one hand, at the start of the film Owen is in a very grim situation and seems well on the road to some kind of serious mental disorder – but while his relationship with Abby is clearly redemptive and empowering for him, by the end of the film he is arguably in a much worse place. It’s hard to be sure, though: this is a film bereft of comforting moral certainties. Ironically, the only characters presented as wholly bad are the school bullies.

When embarking on the relaunch of a classic brand name, one of the key mistakes people tend to make is to feel they have to slavishly revisit the style of the original. The example I always give is Carry On Columbus, which – rather than trying to make a comedy film of its time, as the original Carry Ons were – spent ninety minutes copying a style twenty years out of date, and meeting with deserved failure as a result. Viewed in terms of how closely it resembles an old-style Hammer horror in content, tone, and style, Let Me In isn’t really recognisable as such. But if all you’re looking for from a Hammer horror is a great story, well told, then it’s a massive success for all concerned, and the best possible start for New Hammer. Horror cinema over the last few years has really suffered from an excess of Saws – if this is a sample of what the company can do, I’m all for seeing a lot more Hammers from now on.

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