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Perils of Adolescence Brought Memorably to Life in Let Me In

  • Christian Hamaker Contributing Writer
  • Updated Feb 03, 2011
Perils of Adolescence Brought Memorably to Life in <i>Let Me In</i>

DVD Release Date:  February 1, 2011
Theatrical Release Date:  October 1, 2010
Rating:  R (for strong bloody horror violence, language and a brief sexual situation)
Genre:  Horror
Run Time:  115 min.
Director:  Matt Reeves
Actors:  Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas, Carla Buono, Dylan Minnette, Jimmy Pinchak, Nicolai Dorian

Let Me In is being sold as a "vampire movie" with shock scares and standard horror-film frights. It is anything but that.

Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) has taken the original Swedish film, Let the Right One In, moved the setting to 1983 New Mexico, and has crafted a beautifully realized film about the uncertainties and loneliness of adolescence. It also explicitly raises the idea that evil is quite real—although not always in the places we might think. Its ambivalence on the acceptance of evil is uncomfortable, even chilling, but that makes the film all the more powerful. It's a warning about how spiritually vulnerable we are, and how easily we can go astray when searching for solutions to our problems.

Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is being raised by a religious mother (Carla Buono) who prays with Owen that he will be protected from evil. There's no male influence in the home. The closest thing we see to a male influence is President Ronald Reagan on the TV, speaking about evil and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Who is evil in Owen's world? We know from the film's opening sequence that Owen's new neighbors might have something to do with an investigation by a police officer (Elias Koteas) who suspects a Satanic cult is on the loose.

The neighbors are, at the least, odd. The 12-year-old Abby (Chloe Moretz) walks barefoot in the snow and tells Owen they can never be friends. He hears her older male guardian (Richard Jenkins) arguing with her at night. Something isn't right, but Owen needs a friend. Unlike the neighbors Owen watches through his window, Abby is real, approachable and willing to interact with Owen.

But Abby is a vampire. Her need for human blood has her attacking random men and women, leaving her older guardian to clean up her messy kills—and to do the killing himself whenever Abby tells him to do so. Abby also has her own set of rules for Owen: She can't be his friend and she can't enter his home without his inviting her inside. To violate these rules is to bring emotional and physical pain upon Abby, and Owen can't afford to hurt her. He needs her companionship and advice in dealing with three school bullies (Dylan Minnette, Jimmy Pinchak, Nicolai Dorian).

It takes a while to realize that the evil Owen is facing might not be just the vampire next door, but also the all-too-human cruelty visited upon him by the thugs at his school. Although his mother's religious life isn't explored in depth, her prayers for his protection from evil can be interpreted as being answered, albeit through a very unexpected ally. And yet, Abby has her own agenda, one that will lead to Owen's destruction if he chooses to "let her in." Her advice to Owen to retaliate against the bullies also contradicts Scripture's teachings, and has spiritual consequences. Peter warns us, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings" 1 Peter 5:8-9). But rather than endure the suffering, Owen strikes backs—with grim consequences for everyone involved.

Let Me In captures the uncertainty of adolescence, and the consequences of allowing impressionable youths to forge bonds with allies about whom little is known. It's about vulnerable young men, distracted parents, and the poor decisions that can result from a lack of involvement and oversight in the life of a child. It's a wake-up call for parents who don't know enough about their own children and their kids' friends.

If you see it, prepare to be disturbed—but also to be reminded of the power of temptation, especially for children who feel lonely, isolated and in need of companionship. It's easy for them to choose poorly. What can you do to ensure that they don't fall victim to evil?

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  • Language/Profanity:  "Jesus Christ"; "f" word multiple times; "b-tch"; several uses of "God"; "a-s"; "go-d-mnit"; "crap."
  • Smoking/Drinking/Drugs:  Owen's mother drinks wine.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Owen spies on neighbors as they kiss, and as the man caresses the woman's bare breast; Abby disrobes (not seen) and crawls into Owen's bed; Abby kisses Owen.
  • Violence:  A burn victim is treated in an ambulance; Owen practices holding a knife and making verbal threats in front of a mirror; Owen is bullied by three boys in a school locker room, and is given a wedgie that makes him urinate in his pants; Owen buys a knife and sticks it into a tree several times; the guardian hides in the back of cars and then rises up to kill the drivers; he strings up the first body in the woods, sticks a knife in the victim's throat and drains blood into a receptacle; Abby attacks a passerby, and blood is shown dripping from her mouth; she breaks his neck; a boy is whipped three times; Abby tells Owen to physically retaliate against bullies; a car crash from the perspective of inside the vehicle; a man pours acid onto himself, disfiguring his face; Abby drinks a man's blood, and he falls to his death; a boy hits another boy with a large pole, tearing his ear; Owen makes a pact with Abby by cutting his hand and drawing blood; Abby licks blood from floor; Abby attacks a woman, who later turns into a vampire, sucking blood from her own arm and catching fire when exposed to sunlight; a nurse burns to death; Abby bleeds uncontrollably when entering a room without an invitation; blood drains in a shower; Owen watches Abby, who has only a towel around herself; detective pulls a gun and breaks down a door; Abby attacks a man and kills him; a near-drowning; a brief image of a decapitated head and other body parts; bodies strewn about a pool.
  • Religion/Morals:  Evil is discussed through political speeches and a detective's suspicions about a satanic cult; Owen's mother is has a picture of Jesus on the wall of their home, and she prays for Owen's protection while saying grace; a detective says, "Jesus, Mary, Joseph"; a sermon can be heard being delivered in the background in one scene; Owen's parents are divorcing, and they argue on the phone; Owen's father tells him that he disapproves of the religious enthusiasm of Owen's mother; Owens asks his father if there's such a thing as evil; Owen steals $20 from his mother's wallet and, as he does so, notices a picture of Jesus on the wall.