Vampires have nothing on bullies and puberty.
The young boy Owen, who is misunderstood by his parents and constantly picked on at school, approaches the breaking point when he meets a new neighbor appearing his age named Abby. There is something dark about Abby, but they form a bond out of their mutual isolation while their respective worlds come apart.
This story isn’t so much of a horror film as it is a dark romance between Owen and Abby. Both are two isolated children at that awkward age on the brink of puberty, coming together over a sense of isolation from the world around them. Their growing connection and companionship is what drives the story.
The true horror of the film doesn’t come from the vampiric elements. It’s instead from the very human bullies who torment Owen in school. The brutality of childhood bullying, mixed with the loneliness of what The Fresh Prince calls “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” adds a creepy familiarity that will send chills down anyone’s back. It’s not some fantasy monster, but instead it’s sadly a very real occurrence in everyday school life.
All the acting is superbly understated, as everyone does a great job in several roles, especially the stars Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace Moretz as the young boy Owen and the vampire Abby respectively. Both have a scary angst from being stuck in their own predicaments. The adults also do great jobs with the little dialog or screen time they have, particularly Richard Jenkins and Elias Koteas (earning the film the new title of “Casey Jones vs. Vampires”)
The movie feels a bit long, clocking in at just under two hours. The first half drags a bit, as this is a very slow, melancholy story. It does pick up as the two children become closer and Owen begins to learn just what his new friend is.
If you manage to stick with the story the whole way through, you’ll find it’s both a disturbing yet charming childhood romance wrapped in a blanket of violence and the supernatural. I wouldn’t be able to compare it to the Swedish film or the novel both are based off of, but there are changes discussed in the commentary that seem to make the film “safer” for American audiences, simply by staying vague on the subject. Either way, the film doesn’t seem to lose the dark romantic base of the overall story.
It’s a dark, somber tale of the horrors in growing up and finding connections.
The video is in anamorphic widescreen 2.40:1. The film looks clean and crisp. It’s dim yet visible to help fit the mood. The CGI of Abby’s supernatural movement and abilities sticks out like a sore thumb. The majority of the CGI though – that used for snow fall, building alterations and other, more mundane things – is much more well done and blends in to be more undetectable.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 sounds fine. The dialog is clear for the most part, but there are exceptions with Richard Jenkins’ character and the gym teacher. The score is mostly quiet, with somber instrumentals to set the darker, melancholic tone of the film. However, you can’t have a film set in the ‘80s without ‘80s pop, which does help the setting but also jolts away from the tone the rest of the score had set. Still, with the quiet and somber tone of much of the film, a little break isn’t a bad thing.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This one-disc film comes in a single case with a hard plastic slide-on wrap. The disc has a decent amount of extras, including neat little making-of clips of the heavy special effects and behind-the-scenes videos, deleted scenes, galleries and theatrical trailers (both green band and red band). The commentary track, narrated by writer/director Matt Reeves, goes into a lot of detail about working behind the scenes and with the actors, as well as differences from the book.
Another bonus inside the case is a reprint of a prequel comic released by Dark Horse. It’s only issue one of four, but the issue is decently self contained. Some of the characters seem to talk more than what they would seem from the movie though, giving a slight disconnect. Still, a free comic is always a nice thing.
This is really a dark romance that actually doesn’t romanticize vampires, thankfully enough. It’s a good movie and a good release. If this film and its commentary are any indication, the original works are at least of equal caliber, if not better, so this is an excellent jumping off point.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Series 8.5/10
The Video 7.5/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8.5/10