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Staring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins Pitchforks: 4.5 out of 5 Rating: R

Earlier this year, Chloe Moretz stirred up much controversy with her character Hit Girl in “Kick-Ass.” Various skeptics found it morally reprehensible to depict a girl just on the verge of adolescence being shot at, killing people and exercising the “C” word.

Now Moretz tackles another risky role as an eternally 12-year-old, bloodthirsty vampire who tears people to shreds in “Let Me In.” Whether or not you have reservations with Moretz’s character in “Kick-Ass” or in this film, one thing is for certain: She is one of the best young actresses working in movies today whose daring film choices resemble that of a young Jodie Foster. Let’s hope her uniqueness and gallantry as a performer will carry into her adult years.

In this loyal remake of the 2008 Swedish film, “Let the Right One In,” Kodi Smit-McPhee plays Owen. This 12-year-old boy has no friends at school, and is constantly tormented by a bully and his gang. In one instance the bully gives Owen a wedgie so brutal he makes the Karate Kid’s schoolyard nemesis look like the Dalai Lama.

His religious, soon to be divorced mother, whose face we rarely see, is too distressed to pay any attention to him. His father is absent for the entire movie, with exception to a brief phone conversation they share.

A pale young girl named Abby (Moretz), and her alleged father, played by Richard Jenkins, move into Owen’s building. He and Abby meet out in the courtyard one night. Owen is at first baffled by this strange girl who never wears shoes despite the snowy whether.

Although Abby tells him that they cannot be friends upfront, the two nevertheless form an unbreakable bond. But around the same time Abby moves in, mutilated bodies begin to turn up around town.

Director Matt Reeves supplies the film with an appropriately cold tone. Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino renders a score that’s every bit as lingering as his theme to “Lost.”

The cinematography from Greig Fraser is especially inspired, particularly in a brilliantly executed car accident sequence filmed from the automobile’s interior.

All of these attributes contribute to making “Let Me In” the most effective and genuinely creepy thriller of the year. For the first time in a long time, this movie actually made me feel compelled to check the back seat of my car walking out of the theater.

The real surprise regarding “Let Me In” is the friendship that unfolds between Owen and Abby. Their relationship is touching and, in its own twisted way, even charming.

I realize that “charming” is the last word that comes to mind when considering an abundantly gruesome vampire movie that indeed earns its R-rating. But Owen and Abby share a connection so sincere and tender, in spite of the harsh circumstances, that I can’t think of a better word to describe it. Their relationship is based on love and understanding, unlike some unions that revolve only around lust like Bella Swan and Edward Cullen.

At times “Let Me In” even reminded me of films such as “My Girl” and “Bridge to Terabithia” … that is if you threw vampires into the equation. This makes “Let Me In” more than a captivating thriller. It’s fundamentally a great film about childhood friendship.

Our nation is in the midst of a vampire fad, not only with the “Twilight” series but also “True Blood” and “The Vampire Diaries.” Among all the American depictions of vampires released in the past few years, “Let Me In” is the most accurate in capturing the nature of these creatures. There’s more at stake here than whether or not the sexy vampire can be with Kristen Stewart or Anna Paquin. The film realizes that vampires are truly tragic figures, especially the ones under 12.

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