Let Me In
This film is a reviewer’s nightmare. The strength of the original Swedish language movie, ‘Let The Right One In’, has meant that this film has been greeted with a frosty reception from cinematic purists. I’m a massive ‘Let The Right One In’ fan, but I was looking forward to ‘Let Me In’ because preview footage suggested a very measured remake which captured a lot of the spirit of the original. It should be noted that taken on its own (this is especially important for those who haven’t seen the Swedish version) this is a very fine film. But inevitably my review will draw on the weaknesses and superiorities in relation to the original.
The film revolves around the life of a 12 year old Vampire girl and her budding relationship with the bullied boy who lives next door. This is, however, no Twilight. The girl’s ‘father’ regularly hangs people upside down, slits their throats and drains their blood in order to provide sustenance for his charge. There is a fair amount of gore, but, as is so crucial to Scandinavian crime, it’s mainly artistic- the symbolism of the stark red-on-white contrast is amazing. It should be noted that neither film is more violent, the director, Matt Reeves, has not added any extra mutilation for American audiences used to the Saw franchise- indeed he cuts out the original’s slightly shocking vaginal mutation.
The main strength of ‘Let Me In’ is the two young leads, in particular Kodi Smit-McPhee. In this respect the film is superior to its Swedish counterpart as the vulnerability of Owen and the terrible contradiction of Abby shine through even more strongly. The rest of the cast doesn’t get much to do, although Richard Jenkins (who bears a striking resemblance to the actor in the Swedish version) is suitably chilling when he dons his mask of bin-liner. All in all the fact that the movie has been translated into English shouldn’t affect your view of the acting- it is almost universally superb.
However the film does lose out to its Swedish counterpart on the atmosphere of the piece. This was seen as the most crucial element of ‘Let The Right One In’, the oppressively heavy feeling that emanated from every aspect. The move from Sweden to New Mexico has presented difficulties, and the film works much better in Sweden. Likewise the family aspect works better in the original. In ‘Let Me In’ Matt Reeves makes a conscious choice to not show Owen’s father or ever show his mother’s face in any detail and whilst this is interesting, the character development suffer as a result. Equally in the scenes that are shot for shot remakes the update usually loses out, especially in the dramatic finale which was so intense in the Swedish version. However when Reeves is sticking close to his source material he doesn’t go far wrong, and that could be said of the entire movie.
A dignified response to a film which is treated with an almost reverential level of respect. In some ways this is the stronger film, but it might just suffer as a result of being left in the shadow (almost literally) of its Swedish counterpart. An exemplary remake.