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LET ME IN

Blood And Snow
In search of a memorable backdrop for the film, a location with authentic 1980s atmosphere and a snowy, desolate landscape, Matt Reeves originally planned to set Let Me In in Colorado.

Then he discovered Los Alamos, New Mexico. "At first, I thought, the New Mexico desert?” he admits. "How's that going to work? Then I learned it was high desert, and it does snow there. In fact, in trying to transfer the story to an American landscape, New Mexico was brilliant. It's classic John Ford country with iconic Western vistas.”

Simon Oakes sees strong similarities between Reeves' depiction of Los Alamos and the small town in Tomas Alfredson's original film. "Matt created the American equivalent of that village for our film,” he says. "He gave it the same sense of anonymity and bleakness that was part of the allure. By deliberately choosing to set the story in middle of nowhere, he could allow extraordinary things to happen in a very ordinary environment.”

A town of about 18,000 people located 100 miles north of Albuquerque, Los Alamos is home to the world-renowned Los Alamos National Laboratory. It looks like an ordinary small town, but it was founded during World War II as a super-secret community to house the Manhattan Project's employees as they developed the first nuclear weapons.

Reeves learned that Drew Goddard, the writer of Cloverfield, grew up in Los Alamos. Goddard was able to give the director more insight into the community's unique ethos, including the fact that Los Alamos is believed to have the highest average IQ in the country, undoubtedly because of the number of top scientists who have settled there. It also has the highest number of churches per capita, which Reeves believes is no coincidence.

"In those labs, they are coming up with all sorts of ways that people might be able kill each other,” he says. "I think the people there grapple with the difficulty of what that means. They seem to be trying to find some way to understand how you can live that life and still be a good person. That was very intriguing to me in the context of this film.”

To capture the specific look he sought for the film, Reeves turned to noted cinematographer Grieg Fraser, whose recent credits include director Jane Campion's Bright Star and Scott Hicks' The Boys Are Back. "What struck me most, on first read of Let Me In, was the incredibly dark, and foreboding tone Matt had created,” recalls Fraser. "Threaded throughout this darkness, sat a beautiful love story. Our challenge was to create visuals that complimented, but never overpowered this story. During shooting, we tried very hard not to feel like we were lighting and framing for a genre piece. Instead, we were lighting a period drama, with children at the center of the story." Reeves also worked closely with production designer Ford Wheeler to weave visual elements inspired by the town's scientific spirit into the film. For instance, Owen escapes into his own secret world with a large moon mural covering one of his walls and space exploration knickknacks surrounding him.

"One of the things I remember vividly about that time is what a big deal the space shuttle was,” says the director. "When Ford and I talked about what Owen's room should look like, we discussed that and ended up deciding to have that mural on his wall. When you see Kodi sitting there, he is a lone figure against the moon. The idea of him as a little astronaut on the face of the moon was a metaphor for both how lonely he was and how much he desired escape.”

Owen clings to his puffy silver jacket, which reminds him of the suits that the astronauts wear. The silver jacket was a specific reference from Reeves' childhood, according to costume designer Melissa Bruning. "He describes it in detail in the script. It was a memory of something he had as a kid. The jacket became Owen's armor in the film. It protects him from the horrors he faces in his everyday life.”

To create the film's authentic 1980s clothing, Bruning referred to her junior high school yearbook. "It's always great to do a period film set in a time you remember,” she says. "It helps me make the designs true to who these people are, rather than just a showcase for the period.”

Smit-McPhee, who arrived on set with spiked hair and a neon earring, underwent a major image overhaul. "We put him in khakis and Izod sweaters,” says Bruning. "The idea was that Owen's mother dresses him like a little man, but unfortunately he's the kid in school that's going to be kicked for looking like that. Owen said he felt ‘geeked out.'” Reeves shared the Mary Ellen Mark photo he showed to Moretz with Bruning as well. "Matt wanted an almost nomadic look,” she says. "The child in the picture doesn't have a home. She's a wanderer, wearing an oversized ski jacket, skirt and boots. "We used that as the basis for Abby's wardrobe,” says Bruning. "Even though Abby doesn't feel the cold, she knows that without a jacket, she'll stick out. She wears her boots for the same reason: the need to blend in.”

Rather than drawing on the time-honored visual clichés for movie vampires, Reeves asked special effects supervisor Andrew Clement to create a unique look that was inspired by the problems real adolescents face. "He wanted to key into everything that happens to you at that time in your life,” says Clement. "Everything is awkward and going wrong with your body. I pulled images from the internet of real skin problems and real dental problems, and we put it all together in a really collaborative process.”

"Matt called it ‘adolescence gone wrong,'” says visual effects supervisor Brad Parker. "When Abby is hungry, she gets bad acne, her skin goes pale and greasy, and she looks sickly. It's as if she is fighting the transformation.”

The degeneration in Abby's appearance prompted her co-star to say he expects to have nightmares about her for years to come. "Her eyes and her teeth are just gruesome,” says Smit-McPhee. "Owen is a lot tougher than I would be facing Abby. I'd probably just cry.”

Moretz's stunt work for her role as a superhero-in-training in Kick-Ass came in handy for this film as well. "I did a lot of martial arts training for Kick-Ass. Whenever Matt asked if I could do something, I would say, ‘Yeah, it shouldn't be too hard.'”

While the stunt work may not have seemed difficult to her, her gung ho attitude impressed her co-workers. "Chloë is very agile and quick,” says stunt coordinator John Robotham. "She was able to do a lot of her own work. She has a lot of energy and was open to trying things that older actors might not want to do.”

And while she says some of the physical aspects of the role weren't so much scary as just gross, Moretz embraced the entire experience. "At one point I was drenched in fake blood, which is really sticky. And when we were shooting another scene, where Abby is feeding, Matt asked if I wanted to drink the fake blood. I said sure. Bad choice. It tasted like a mixture of rubbing alcohol, Pepto Bismol and dirt.”

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