“Let Me In” (Anchor Bay), a remake of the Swedish coming-of-age horror movie come adolescent survival drama set in the wilds of suburban civilization, is as unexpected as can be: an American revision of a celebrated European film that manages to honor the original while translating its anxiety and unease to a distinctly American setting and, if anything, deepening the emotional power of the original.
Moved from the suburbs of Stockholm to Los Alamos, New Mexico, in the depths of winter in the last gasps of the Cold War under Reagan’s presidency, it follows the same story: a bullied young boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee, heartbreakingly lonely) left to drift in his own isolation as his parents withdraw in divorce and an odd, eerily confident girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) who only comes out at night and endures the snow and the chill in bare feet and summer dresses. Yes, she’s a vampire who feeds off the blood harvested by her guardian (Richard Jenkins, a hollow man with failing skills so deadened by his work that slavish devotion alone drives him). And she’s a twelve-year-old girl (“I’ve been twelve for a very long time”) who has just found a friend in a devoted boy who has been abandoned by the rest of the world.
Kick-Ass is a comic book movie with a killer premise: what if regular people in the real world became costume vigilantes like the superheroes in comic books? Based on the uber-violent comic by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., this film tosses a high school teenager (Aaron Johnson) into a crime-fighting culture he isn’t the least bit prepared for, and then pairs him up with an adolescent schoolgirl (Chloë Grace Moretz) who has been trained by a mentally unbalanced (yet absolutely loving) father (Nicolas Cage) into becoming a ferocious filling machine. Yeah, it’s completely f*****d up, and that’s what is both right and wrong with the film. Your appreciation will depend in how much you can appreciate it’s utter wrongness as a twisted virtue. Or how much you appreciate Nicolas Cage’s impression of Adam West’s Batman. Matthew Vaughn directs with plenty of brutal black humor, but he can’t quite follow the real-world blowback all the way down the inevitable spiral of doom. For all the collision between adolescent fantasy and material world reality, it’s just another kind of superhero fantasy, but with more blood and expletives along the way.