Let Me In is sold on atmosphere. It’s uneasy, terrifying, and unsure. This is a film about two kids, one disturbed due to heavy bullying, the other a vampire.
The film doesn’t shy away from its lore, elements familiar to fans of bloodsuckers inserted here to great effect, the difference being it’s merely a 12-year old donning the fangs. That changes everything. Even as a creature, there’s something unsettling about a child resorting to brutal slaughter, something Let Me In never overemphasizes, but keeps to the shadows. The effect is not lost, and if anything, it’s a better movie because it doesn’t rely on unrelenting scares.
Let Me In is of course a remake, this US adaptation having its own style and feel, possibly even a deeper experience overall. Matt Reeves writes and directs, coming up with some stunning camerawork, the highlight being a master shot of a car crash from the interior as the vehicle rolls down a hill. Light is purposefully limited, creating mood and plot purpose.
The highlight of everything are the leads, Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Abby (Chloe Moretz), two kids on a similar path who find a connection together. They remain naïve, socially awkward, and struggling to deal with their own personal issues. They seem like they’re at a point where they’re just trying to survive in a world that is simply swallowing them up, a late night phone call Owen makes to his father gut wrenching.
Reeve’s version never quite finds the proper level of visual effects though, Abby impossibly relentless in her assaults, and the animation woefully inadequate. Thankfully the darkness hides any other flaws. Even at a distance as Abby climbs the side of a hospital, the experience takes a tumble. Still, this is paced beautifully, almost melodic in how it hits everything it needs to in order to rebound from its minimalist faults. Fantastic material.
Reeves shoots the film in almost total darkness, the few scenes in daylight more of a relief from the oppressive muted look. That means it’s necessary for Anchor Bay’s AVC encode to ramp up the black levels, and for the most part, it does. While they lack a rich, deep quality, they never completely lose their grip either. They remain consistent and sufficiently natural, if not overpowering like they probably should be at times.
Flesh tones veer towards a familiar, sickly orange, again the weak interior lighting at fault, or at least that’s the idea. The digital intermediate plays a large role here and it doesn’t do much for the cool or warm palettes the film goes with. Snowy exteriors during the day carry a slightly more natural blueish tint, although these scenes are certainly few.
Without a lighting base, there’s not much of an element for visible fine detail to grow either. Generally, detail is poor and the image somewhat soft. It takes quite some time for this one to develop into something significant, the close-ups slowly but surely beginning to take shape. Medium shots never connect all that well, and are at times downright abysmal in terms of pure definition.
The chosen film stock produces a limited grain structure that is mostly handled by the black levels rather than this encode. There are no issues of compression, ringing, or other unsightly artifacts. Let Me In is a nicely transparent digital transition, if not the greatest looking movie ever made for eye candy enthusiasts.
Ominous drums power the opening credits, producing some meticulous, clear, tight bass that will remain mostly untouched for most of the movie. The subwoofer is called upon two more times, once for the above mentioned car crash where each flip generates a sufficient thump, and the second a powerful fire in a hospital room. Each time it’s enough to sell an added layer to the visuals.
Surrounds engage regularly too, although for far more subtle purposes. The pool used in a few scenes has a pleasing, natural echo to its empty hall on a couple of occasions, and the carry out pushes classic video game audio into the rears. There’s an even stronger echo effect inside an abandoned room at 1:14:00, the dialogue nicely enveloping the soundfield.
Balance is flawless, some key lines whispered without audible fault, blending with any sequence of yelling or pounding. Keeping the audio stable makes the few dramatic scares work even better.
A commentary is delivered by Matt Reeves on his own, followed by From the Inside, a 17-minute making-of. The Art of Special Effects is a multi-pass deconstruction of the CG work. Car Crash: Step by Step is the most interesting piece here because of how complex the whole sequence was. Dissecting Let Me In is a picture-in-picture bit with most of the material culled from the disc’s other extras. Some deleted scenes (with optional commentary), trailers, and still galleries remain.