The Beast Within

Photo: Julia Fullerton-Batten; Styling by Abisoye Odugbesan; Hair and Makeup by Cherrie Bullock/Claire Hanson

Thirteen-year-old Chloë Grace Moretz has killed more people onscreen this year than most adult male action stars. In April, she played Mindy Macready, a.k.a. Hit-Girl, the foulmouthed preteen who stabbed, shot, and sliced her way through Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass. (Sample line, spoken in an Eastwoodian whisper: “Okay, you cunts. Let’s see what you can do now.”) She’s following that up with the equally shocking Let Me In, Cloverfield director Matt Reeves’s unnerving remake of the dark Swedish vampire hit Let the Right One In. But where Kick-Ass was a flamboyantly gruesome, candy-colored action fantasy, Let Me In is understated and heartbreaking.

A preteen supernova in R-rated movies presents some complications. Moretz’s mother, Teri, was criticized for letting her daughter act in Kick-Ass—though, oddly, people were more upset by the language than the body count. Moretz notes that her mother and her acting coach, who happens to be her older brother Trevor, screen every potential script first, “and we make a decision as a family.”

In Let Me In, Moretz plays Abby, the perpetually 12-year-old, introverted bloodsucker living in the same Los Alamos housing block as the film’s much-bullied hero Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee). How exactly does an actress so young tackle a character as complex as Abby? Pretty much like any other intelligent actor. “Abby is a 250-year-old soul, she’s a vampire, but she’s also still a little girl,” says Moretz. “The trick was [how to combine] these three very different people.” That required sitting with Trevor and “breaking apart the character. We know Abby’s really lonely. She doesn’t like to kill or to drink blood. She kills because she has to, because of the beast inside her.”

You’d have to go back to seventies Jodie Foster to find a young actress with Moretz’s preternatural mix of gravity and innocence, maturity and playfulness. The director of Foster’s Taxi Driver and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore concurs: Moretz is currently in Europe, starring in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo Cabret.

Let Me In
Directed by Matt Reeves.
Oct. 1.

The Beast Within