It’s true confession time. I must admit that I was looking forward to seeing Let Me In, not because I thought it was going to be a great film, but rather the opposite. I fully expected to hate it. Not only did I expect to hate it; I wanted to hate it. I wanted to hate and find fault in it and barf all over it on my blog, so the three people reading it would say to themselves, “Wow! That Captain Midnight sure ripped Let Me In a new one. I guess we’ll just go see Inception –again.” And maybe they’d tell a few friends that some jerkwad blogger that they read on the internet totally pissed on Let Me In, and maybe they’d tell a few friends and so on; until people treated the movie like it was a leper or a plague carrying rat or even better, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender. Yeah, I wanted just exactly that to happen.
You see, Let Me In is an American remake of a Swedish film called Let the Right One In, a movie that Captain Midnight loves like it was his own baby, which came out, ooooh, waaaaaaaaaaay back . . . about twenty months ago or so. Let the Right One In is a great film (Yes, it is, Frank!). I’ve reviewed it here, on this very site. Here. Go read about it. I’ll wait.
(The Girl From Ipanema plays softly in the background while Captain Midnight takes an emery board to his nails)
Okay! You’re back. So you can see why I’m a little pissed. The only thing wrong with Let the Right One In is that Americans are functionally illiterate. They won’t go see a movie with subtitles unless it features Brad Pitt scalping Nazis and those are the artsy American film fans – the sort of people that call movies “flicks.”
So I was all set to rip into Let Me In, a movie I felt didn’t need to be made, a movie whose entire existence is owed to fact most Americans movie goers are intellectual slugs. I am both happy and sad to report that Let Me In does not suck. I’m sad because I can’t spit all over it, but glad because I don’t have to spit all over it.
Matt Reeves, the writer/director behind Let Me In clearly respects the source material, both the book and the original film. He didn’t “re-imagine*” Let the Right One In, so much as translate it for a North American audience. This is not to say that Reeves simply made a shot for shot re-make in English. He definitely re-wrote the screenplay, adding scenes here and deleting them there, tweeking this and that to make the story and the characters more identifiable to an American audience. As the story progresses, the distant and enigmatic Abby becomes more warm and girly; the creepy Owen becomes less and less like a embryonic serial killer. At first this annoyed me– big time. After having a chance to reflect on it, the changes really only take place within the confines of the relationship between Abby and Owen. To everyone on the outside of that relationship, Abby still seems cold and detached and Owen still seems like a creep. Still I’d rather the characters stayed true to who they are rather have them softened even if I could find a way to rationalize it.
Other changes are more like cake frosting, superficial and colorful with most of it on the corner peices. To pin the story in time, 1983, Reeves added pop music of the era, a Ms Pac Man machine, and Ronald Reagan on TVs in the background and people wearing shorts with their tube socks pulled up as high as they will go. My favorite of the little touches that Reeves included was that every meal Ower’s mother fixes is macaroni and cheese from a box. Nothing says, “You’re in tough financial straights” like macaroni and cheese from a box several nights a week.
Reeves makes more dramatic changes such as the relationships between characters, and even adds a new character ( a cop), again, to make the story more workable in an American context. I’d go into detail, but thar be spoilers! Argh!
The plot of Let Me In more or less left intact from Let the Right One In, so I really don’t feel a need to go into that. Let Me In is shot and edited in such a way that even though I was watching the same story, it still felt like a new and different movie. Let Me In, more or less, preserves the feeling of hopelessness and the circle of victim and perpetrator that made the original so dark.
The acting in the original film was really good. How did the acting in the Americanized version hold up? Solidly. Kodi Smit-McPhee had some big, creepy shoes to fill and did it with skill, making the angry, frightened and lonely young Owen come to life. As Abby we have Cloë Grace Moretz, at first I had some serious reservations about her, but when she first takes the screen as Abby, it’s clear that sheis able to bring the gravity that the character requires despite her age. The remainder of the cast is solid with Elias Koteas, Richard Jenkins and Dylan Minnette all filling in their parts nicely. The only character that was poorly cast was Virginia, the actress, Sasha Barrese, is too Hollywood pretty for the part.
Visually Let Me In doesn’t hit quite the same level of claustrophobic bleakness that characterized the Let the Right One In. Oskar’s world in the original film felt far more confined, more smothering and inescapable than Owen’s New Mexico. This isn’t to say that Let Me In is a sunny day on the beach; it’s forbidding to be sure, just not as much as the original.
As you would expect in an American made horror film, the special effects are more extreme than in a the Swedish made original. The effects, sadly, are mostly CGI, and obvious CGI at that. I expected better from Reeves.
Do I think that Let the Right One In needed a re-make? No, not only no, but hell no! That being said, Let Me In is about the best we could have hoped for — an Americanized retelling without totally Hollywooding it up. It’s not perfect but it is totally watchable.
* “Re-imagine” is Hollywood-speak for taking one movie and re-making is such a way that it is a artistically hollowed out like a cheap chocolate bunny but marketable in the short term, like a cheap chocolate bunny.
Cloë Grace Moretz