Director: Matt Reeves
Writer: Matt Reeves, based on Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas, Cara Buono
Running Length: 115 minutes
Synopsis: Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a scrawny, timid 12-year old who is frequently bullied at school. When a new girl, Abby (Chloe Moretz) moves into his apartment block together with an older gentleman who seems to be her father (Richard Jenkins), Owen’s interest is naturally piqued, and despite Abby’s protests, a friendship soon forms between the two. What Owen doesn’t realize (until later) is that Abby is actually a vampire, and when her “father” is unable to provide for her meals, she decides to go hunting in the neighbourhood. With her indiscretions during these bloodbaths, it’s only a matter of time before the police (Elias Koteas) get too close for comfort.
Review: One might question the sense in remaking a Swedish film (Let the Right One In) that’s barely 2 years old, but casting aside the fact that Let Me In is a remake, the film actually stands very well on its own merits. Let Me In is starkly different from vampire movies of late – it’s subtle and atmospheric, yet brutally violent when it needs to be. Although there is a pseudo-romance between a vampire girl and a human boy, the soppy melodrama that permeates vampire romance franchises like Twilight are completely missing in this movie – which, to me, is a very good thing.
The narrative structure of Let Me In is very simple, and there really aren’t that many surprises to be had. However, what really stands out is the quality of acting of the two young leads as well as Richard Jenkins. Kodi Smit-McPhee is very credible as a frightened, socially awkward boy, and it’s very easy for audience members to relate to him. Chloe Moretz may be too attractive and girly to pass off as an age-old vampire, but there’s great chemistry between her and Smit-McPhee, and given the unique situation Abby is in (her new relationship with Owen puts her existing relationship with her “father” into jeopardy) , manages a very nuanced performance. Richard Jenkins has only a handful of scenes, but these are some of the most emotionally powerful in the movie and Jenkins manages to convey a multitude of emotions without even having to speak.
What’s most impressive about Let Me In is how Reeves treats the source material with a lot more respect than many Hollywood remakes. He has managed to make the film “Hollywood-friendly” while still preserving much of what made Let the Right One In such a good horror film, and yet Let Me In is different enough to justify its existence. Much of the ambiguity in the original has been cleared up, and in some ways this may prove a more satisfying cinematic experience for many viewers.
One of the few problems with Let Me In is its special effects. There’s a lot of gore in the film, but some of these sequences are more cheesy than scary, and the scenes with Abby turning into a vampire are particularly unconvincing. However, it’s clear that Reeves had intended this film to be more a psychological horror film than an outright splatterfest, so it’s a rather forgivable flaw. There may not really be a reason for Let Me In to be made, but Reeves’ sophomore directorial effort is a very accomplished, solid film that deserves to be seen.
Rating: * * * (out of four stars)
Director: Tod Williams
Writer: Michael R. Perry
Cast: Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland, Molly Ehpraim, Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat
Running Length: 91 minutes
Synopsis: Events in Paranormal Activity 2 take place between one and two months before those that were featured in Paranormal Activity. Instead of a couple, the cast has expanded to include a whole family. Kristi (Sprague Grayden) is the sister of Katie (Katie Featherstone, of the first film), and is married to Dan (Brian Boland), his second marriage after the death of his wife. Dan has a teenage daughter Ali (Molly Ehpraim), and the couple has a new baby boy, Hunter. However, things start to go bump in the night when Hunter turns one…
Review: The phenomenal box office success of the first Paranormal Activity all but assured the birth of this sequel (it’s actually both a prequel AND a sequel), but the important question is – apart from a money grab, was there any other compelling reason Paranormal Activity 2 should be made? The answer is no, and it’s quite clear as this film unfolds.
Audiences who have watched the first movie already know how this second movie is going to develop, and thus the creepiness of the first film is almost entirely obliterated. Whilst Paranormal Activity 2 has a good number of cheap “boo!” scares, it never feels as spontaneous as its predecessor. Put in another way, this movie is almost spiritually (pun not intended) identical to the first film, which is not a good thing if the only way the movie can scare its audience is by catching them off guard.
With Paranormal Activity 2, the decision was made to integrate footage from a number of fixed CCTV cameras. This reduces the contrived nature of the first film where the leads seem to be carrying their camera everywhere they went, but this artifice does not go away completely. There are still a handful of scenes which require a great suspension of disbelief: why would anyone not in a reality TV show bring along a camera wherever they went? How does a teenage girl manage to do her online research so well that she could pinpoint exactly what’s wrong in the house, and yet not manage to convince anyone in her family to get out of the house right away?
Credit should be given where it’s due, however, and at least the producers and writers (the director of the first Paranormal Activity, Oren Peli, takes a back seat and is merely credited as a writer on the second film) made an effort to integrate the events into the chronology of the first film’s events. This also allows the two leads in Paranormal Activity to return as supporting characters, and also sets in place, unsurprisingly, the possibility of a third movie.
Is Paranormal Activity 2 a true horror movie? I would have to say “not really” – much as there are many shocking moments, truly scary scenes are virtually nonexistent. The audience is fully prepared to be shocked, and there just isn’t anything new enough to pull the rug out from beneath the audience’s feet. The movie never fills one with dread, and the entire atmosphere feels watered down from the first film. It’s difficult to say if the Paranormal Activity movies can become a franchise since it’s essentially a one-trick pony, but with its first weekend box office in the USA being a runaway success, Paranormal Activity 3 is surely not far behind. Taken on its own, Paranormal Activity 2 still entertains, but as a horror film it’s a decidedly middling one.
Rating: * ½ (out of four stars)