Movie Review: Let Me In- A Rare Quality Remake of the Original Swedish Vampire Film That Possesses Good Character and a Contemplative Atmosphere

When it seemed as though the mythology and origin of vampire films were going to be forever tainted with the romanticized depictions of the mythical creatures in the Twilight films and books there was a glimmer of hope coming out of Sweden with a little film entitled Let the Right One In. Tomas Alfredson’s beautiful and haunting tale of a 12 year old boy befriending a young female vampire was one of the more original horror tales to be told on the big screen in a long while. And like any good idea in the film world that came from another country Hollywood felt it had to remake it for general audiences so that lazy, shallow, and stubborn Americans wouldn’t have to read subtitles. Most of the time remakes are far off from the original’s themes and inspired direction, but luckily director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) stays true to the original despite some slight deviations in visual style. Let Me In is exactly like its predecessor with how it is a horror film for the art-house audiences or for people who enjoy contemplating something to do with our world through the film’s experiences. Any film that braves the domain of depicting and blurring the line between good and evil should immediately be recognized for its integrity. There are enough differences in narrative structure, character depiction, and sequence styles between the two versions to make it an interesting project to compare the strengths and weaknesses of each. While Matt Reeves makes some questionable choices with CGI violence and being more graphic than the original, Let Me In remains a rare remake that is worth seeing and will definitely resonate well with those who didn’t partake in the Swedish version and surprise those who did.

Plot wise the new American version of Let the Right One In is exactly similar to the original. In Let Me In the setting is now a winter time Los Alamos, New Mexico in the early 1980s, which provides some interesting and complimentary background speeches from Ronald Reagan on the nature of good and evil. The protagonist is a twelve year old boy named Owen (Kodi Smit-Mcphee), a sexually curious, insecure, and anti-social young boy whose parents are getting a divorce. He is bullied at school and though he can’t physically defend himself he imagines being tough at home usually practicing with a knife. Things begin to change for Owen when a strange young girl named Abby (Chloe Grace-Moretz) moves in next door. It is slowly revealed to us that this young girl is actually a vampire whose guardian kills people for her to feed on their blood. Richard Jenkins as the reluctant and tired guardian is so effortlessly good that it’s a true shame when he inevitably meets his tragic fate. At the heart of the tale is the unlikely growing friendship between the anti-social Owen and the forced to be alone Abby who both find some sort of solace in each other’s company. Owen learns to stand up for himself with the newly found confidence he feels from being around Abby, while Abby’s animalistic desire for blood is slightly tamed due to the affection she feels for Owen. The moral ambiguity of living as a monster and abetting that behavior can be a divisive plot mechanism but it certainly provides for an engaging relationship and thought-provoking cinema.

Matt Reeves proved himself to be an organized and efficient director with his debut monster film Cloverfield and his ability to use the camera in those intriguing ways provides for some interesting sequences in Let Me In. One segment in particular sort of borrows from the Danish film Just Another Love Story where a stagnant camera acts as a steady shot through a flipping car crash. What will divide most loyal fans of the original Let the Right One In will actually be some of those Matt Reeves stylistic changes where the violence is made more hectic than the original film and particularly more bloody. It will please many American audience members who adore the cinematic crimson of blood, but it really dilutes the effectiveness of the original’s subtlety. When Abby attacks the runner in the tunnel in the original film it’s done with a far shot, because the audience is already aware of her true nature and what will tragically occur to this unfortunate victim. In Matt Reeves’ version there is a lot of flailing about and CGI graphics of the young girl jumping rabidly around to kill her prey. Another sequence that is completely overdone and lacks the beautiful yet horrific imagery from the original is when an infected survivor bursts into flames from the sunlight entering her hospital room. These might not seem important changes but it drastically reduces the cerebral effect Let the Right One In magnificently portrayed through its use of subtle violence and relying on the audience’s imagination rather than stating everything to them. Being overstated is an American weakness in film’s that has only recently been widely used and it’s an unfortunate direction in film that needs to be changed. But while some of the artistic presentation choices aren’t exactly ideal, Let Me In still remains true to the original’s direction and intentions making it still a rare example of a quality remake.

Without the young talent that is essential for making the human and vampire relationship understandable and sympathetic Let Me In could have suffered a great deal in being completely engaging and fallen flat on most audiences. However, both Kodi Smit-Mcphee and Chloe Grace-Moretz make their parts unique in the American depiction providing the essential characters that are needed to make this story relatable in theme. Kodi is completely believable as the anti-social and damaged young Owen who just simply wants a friend in this dark and confusing world. His tormentors are equally believable and make for some difficult sequences to watch due to both Reeve’s close up camera choices and Kodi’s believable winces of pain and mental torment. Hopefully child actors like Kodi keep finding difficult work such as Let Me In and his most recent believable performance in John Hollcoat’s The Road to give Hollywood some capable young talent. Chloe Grace-Moretz is an equally talented young actress who wimiscally portrayed a particularly wise younger sister in (500) Days of Summer and a foul mouthed super heroine in this year’s Kick-Ass. Portraying a young, friend-seeking girl who hides a bloodthirsty monster inside was a difficult task and Chloe does a great job in making it a sympathetic role. The entire cast works well with what they are given and you can’t get any better than using talented character actors such as Elias Koteas and the splendid Richard Jenkins.

Remakes are never better than their original counterparts but occasionally you get one that can compliment its predecessor in staying true to its intended tone and direction. Matt Reeves uses his visual efficiency to aid the great performances throughout his remake of Let the Right One In, which ultimately makes Let Me In a worthwhile remake to experience. It’s difficult to judge the film on its own accord after seeing the original, so those experiencing Let Me In for the first time will most likely find it to be an intriguing thriller. Some of the stylistic choices could have been handled with more tact but that is a picky loyalist expectation from a film that is attempting to bring the tone and themes of the original to a new audience. Gore fans won’t be pleased with the stories sporadic use of violence while Twilight fans with their simplistic view of relationships will find the difficult developing friendship on the screen hard to understand. All in all Let Me In is a surprising remake of the Swedish original that balances visual clarity, character development, and difficult themes that should have most audience’s thinking.

Grade: B-

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