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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It's not easy being friends with a vampire, especially when the blood sucker is killing off people in your hometown.
That is the dilemma faced by 12-year-old Owen when a girl his age moves into the apartment complex in the film "Let Me In," which debuts in theaters on Friday and is a remake of the 2008 Swedish hit, "Let the Right One In.
Set in New Mexico in the 1980s, Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) lives a sad live with his alcoholic mom and is bullied by kids at school until Abby (Chloe Moretz) moves in. She feels empathy for Owen as she's a bit of an outsider, too.
Abby encourages him to stand-up for himself and fight back, but at the same time, is initially traumatized when he finds out his only friend in the world is a murderous vampire.
But the two develop a genuine fondness for each other, and the chemistry between them has translated into an off-screen friendship between Moretz and Smit-McPhee who have continued to stay in touch by email long after the cameras stopped rolling.
"We just clicked," said Moretz. "What you see on screen is what it was in real life. We're really good friends."
Unlike the teen angst and romance in the "Twilight" movies, or the over-the-top campiness of TV's "True Blood" series, "Let Me In" takes the form of a classic horror flick with dark characters. Yet it is grounded in humanity and the notion that all beings need friends -- even the undead ones.
Reviews have been mostly positive with noted critic Roger Ebert writing: "Those hoping to see a 'vampire movie' will be surprised by a good film." Based on early reviews, the movie has scored an 86 percent positive score from ratings compiled by the movie website rottentomatoes.com
To play the part of Abby, 13-year-old Moretz spent hours donning prosthetics, fake teeth and fingernails, contact lenses and getting covered in fake dirt and blood.
"The whole shoot was hard mentally and physically," said Moretz, best known as the controversial, foul-mouthed Hit-Girl in action flick "Kick-Ass."
"We had a steam shower and everyday I'd come home and sit in that steam for about an hour and then fall into bed," she said.
To play Abby, Moretz watched movies such as "Interview with the Vampire" (1994). She first tried to figure out how vampires would move, and with director Matt Reeves decided that Abby should be "cat-like."
"We figured it would be cool for her to move like a beast, like a primal caged cat," she said.
Moretz kept a diary of her character, writing in it as she imagined Abby would write. She spent time pondering questions like, if a person were 300 years-old, would they remember their parents. Would they remember where they came from?
But she did not watch the Swedish film, which was based on the Swedish novel of the same name, because she did not want to copy any of the characters.
But in a break from his friend, Smit-McPhee did -- after production on "Let Me In" had wrapped.
"It's a cool movie," he said of "Let the Right One In." "It's understandable why people are protective of it because it's an awesome film."
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte