By Kit Bowen

Knock, knock? Who’s there? A centuries-old vampire in the body of a sullen 12-year-old girl, let me in, please. Um… OK, come in then.

Let Me In is simply riveting, dark and ominous, cruel and unrelenting, sprinkled with bittersweet  moments and sentiment. It’s a sort of a cross between Twilight and Interview with a Vampire — a love story between 12-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Abby (Chloe Moretz), the girl vampire who has been 12 for a very, very long time. Owen is an odd kid, who keeps to himself and is mercilessly tortured by the school bully (Dylan Minnette). When he meets Abby outside his apartment complex, the two strike up a curious but genuine friendship, even though she warns they shouldn’t be friends. Owen eventually finds out why; Abby is a rather vicious vampire when she needs to feed – or when she decides to defend the ones she likes. Things get complicated when people start turning up dead, which brings one particular cop (Elias Koteas) sniffing around the apartment complex. I think if you read a note that says “Don’t go into the bathroom” you should pay attention. That’s just me.

The real power of the film comes from the young leads. There’s obvious affection between Owen and Abby, albeit in a more chaste, budding adolescent way, and Smit-McPhee and Moretz play it beautifully. Young Kodi showed some real promise in the downer The Road and continues to do so as Owen. He delivers a few powerful scenes, as you seen his innocence melt away the more involved he gets in Abby’s predicament. Kodi might want to do something a little more lighthearted next time, poor kid.

As for Moretz, she turned in a memorable performance as Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s little sister in (500) Days of Summer and then, well, kicked ass in Kick-Ass earlier this year. One could compare her to a Dakota Fanning (wow, Dakota’s now old enough to be compared to. Amazing), but Moretz has other things going on. Her take on Abby is a mixture of sweet and sinister capabilities but not as cruel as say Kristen Dunst was in Interview with a Vampire. Abby has certainly seen a lot, but in her head, she’s still a 12-year-old girl who wants to be taken care of. Not sure if the Academy would consider such a performances come Oscar time, but Moretz and Smit-McPhee are both worthy of nods.

Supporting player Richard Jenkins is also a standout as Abby’s “dad,” the guy who has been looking after her for the last 40 years or so but who has grown tired of the routine. He and Moretz have some truly stellar acting moments together.

Let Me In pretty much keeps to the standard vampire mythology – burns up in daylight, has to asked to come inside your home, turns others into vampires if they are bitten — unlike some of these more modern vampire tales which play around with the “rules.” It’s also a remake of the excellent Swedish film Let the Right One In, and director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) pays homage appropriately, sticking to the slow, methodical, foreign film sensibility. You crave some light at points but the depressing atmosphere just lends itself to the film’s dark themes. Many times the U.S. remakes get it ALL wrong but not in this case. Let’s just say, Let Me In and its Swedish doppelganger, should go on anyone’s top 10 vampire movies list.