Set in the early 1980's in Los Alamos, New Mexico; Owen is a lonely, socially-awkward boy whose life revolves around his caring but alcoholic divorcee mother, a nearby arcade, and the snowy courtyard of his apartment building where much of the story unfolds. Ruthlessly bullied at school, one of the first (and most disturbing) revelations about Owen comes as he stands with a kitchen knife in his bedroom, clear plastic mask on his face, shirtless, and threatening a "little girl". We find out later that "little girl" is how the bullies at school refer to him, and that his fantasy is largely revenge, not the murder of children. Still, I sat up a little straighter and began to understand what the this film was really about with that scene.
A mysterious girl, Abby, and her father move in next door, and as their relationship unfolds Owen is naively unaware of the tragic existence of his new friend. Abby's old and ailing father is forced to go out most nights to murder, bringing his victim's blood back to his daughter to slake her thirst. A unique take on the often glamorous pop-culture imagery of feeding vampires (Trueblood, anyone?). That's not to say that Abby is not capable of killing her own prey, as is graphically and frighteningly depicted in a sexer-pipe mugging scene. However, things go awry when her father is caught, and the two kids (one kid, one monster) grow closer together in their adolescent puppy love. What unfolds is tragic and brilliant.
Director Matt Reeves, who also directed 2008 hit Cloverfield, paces the movie perfectly to balance the building of suspense and the tragically vulnerable characters' development. He also does a great job substituting interesting cinematography, camera angles and shots, for what could have been overblown CGI animations. Kodi Smit-McPhee, who plays Owen, is a fantastic young actor; able to play the distance between a naive and vulnerable young boy and the realization of his young love interest's true nature. Chloe Moretz is perhaps the biggest standout, however, as the tragic and dangerous Abby; grappling with a cocktail of emotions and a very complex character. It's a far cry from her other well-known role in Kick-Ass, and proves that she has some serious acting chops. I could have done without the cliche glowing vampire eyes, and there were some places where the character motivation didn't quite match the plot, but overall Let Me In was a fantastic foil to Twilight in teenage vampire love and a fully satisfying cerebral horror film.